From Pine View Farm

Townslips 3

I have to admit, I don’t understand townships.

In Virginia, where I grew up, your local government was either a city or a county. There was no overlap–cities under Commonwealth law are independent of counties. There was also no question where to turn for local services or who to vote out of office when things weren’t working. (Within counties, there can be towns, which would provide some limited additioinal services, but schools, the jails, and major services are still the purview of the county.)

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I lived in a borough, which was in a township, which was in a county. I never did figure out which one did what, though, apparently, the county didn’t do much in terms of day-to-day services except run a sheriff’s office (though the township and the bourough did the policing–as near as I could find out, the sheriff’s office was like a marshall’s office, escorting prisoners to court and the like) and create jobs.

It was a relief to get to Delaware, which has counties and cities, and you know what’s what and who’s who.

Apparently, I’m not the only person confused by townships:

Consider Maureen Meehan’s story.

She’s a school business administrator in Washington Township, Gloucester County, still rankled by a $20,000 insurance bill that arrived 10 years late. During that decade, the bill had landed repeatedly at one of the (six in New Jersey-ed.) other Washington Townships.

Meehan figured the bill was so old by the time she saw it that she was within her rights to refuse to pay. She lost in court.

“It’s one of the problems of having one name for several towns. The bills went to a different Washington Township, and they were just throwing them in the trash,” sighed Meehan, who for 14 years has worked in New Jersey’s southernmost Washington Township, known more for sprawl than the famous George.

It’s just one of the mail mix-ups, clerical mistakes and skewed checkbooks caused by same-name towns.



  1. Opie

    April 26, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    We have townships here in Illinois, but then we have more taxing bodies than any other state in the union. Nobody knows what townships do, and the only people who even ask are newcomers who have moved here from another state.

    Township taxes are a line item on our property tax bills, which we pay to the county. The township taxes are collected for the purposes of paying for the township office and the salaries of the township workers. They aren’t much, really, compared to the other line items like school districts and so forth.

  2. Frank

    April 26, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    In Pa. and Del., real estate taxes and school taxes are two different line items, though, for all practical purposes, they are both real estate taxes.

    There was just a vote in my local school district for an increase in school taxes. It lost (I was at the job site–I would have voted for it had I made it to the polls in time–I owe that to the folks who paid for my children’s education).

    In Virginia, real estate taxes were real estate taxes. One item, one payment.

    Oh, yeah, in Virginia, the school district is the city or the county, not some separate entity with different boundaries.

    I know Virginia has done some fool things, but they got this right.

  3. Second Son

    April 27, 2007 at 3:52 am

    Jersey’s pretty confusing about it too, though as far as I can tell the county dolls out funds to the different townships.

    Don’t know anything for certain though, I’ll have to ask someone.