The information presented below is a summary of information related to the duties of townships officials. This information does not replace the Code of Iowa, and if there are conflicts between the information provided and the Code of Iowa, the Code of Iowa shall prevail.
Jones County, Iowa, has been divided into sixteen townships:
Cass Township Castle Grove Township Clay Township
Fairview Township Greenfield Township Hale Township
Jackson Township Lovell Township Madison Township
Oxford Township Richland Township Rome Township
Scotch Grove Township Washington Township Wayne Township
The townships are political subdivisions for which three elected trustees from each township have the authority to levy property taxes on behalf of the township for various public purposes. Each township has an elected clerk to handle the financial and clerical duties of the township.
Duties of Township Trustees
Emergency Services: The township trustees of each township shall provide fire protection service for the township, exclusive of any part of the township within a benefited fire district and may provide emergency medical service. The trustees may purchase, own, rent, or maintain fire protection services or emergency medical service apparatus or equipment or both kinds of equipment and provide housing for equipment. The trustees may contract with any public or private agency under chapter 28E for the purpose of providing any service or system required under section 359.42 of the Code of Iowa. Additional information is available in Iowa Code Chapter 359.
Fence Viewing Duties: Township trustees act as fence viewers to determine any controversy arising under Iowa Code Chapter 359A. Fence viewers may determine the obligations, rights, and duties of the respective parties in a partition fence dispute, and assign to each owner the part which he or she shall erect, maintain, rebuild, trim or cut back, or pay for, and fix the value thereof, and prescribe the time within which the same shall be completed or paid for, and in the case of repair, may specify the kind of repairs to be made. Fence viewers do NOT have the power to determine the location of a partition fence! The fees of trustees acting as fence viewers are paid by the parties involved, as determined by the trustees. Township trustees are no longer authorized to settle disputes arising out of trespassing livestock. Additional information is available in Iowa Code Chapter 359A.
Cemeteries: Township trustees are responsible to improve and maintain cemeteries owned by the township, and may improve and maintain cemeteries not owned by the township, provided the cemetery is devoted to general public use. Trustees shall control a cemetery owned by the township or appoint trustees for said cemetery, or may sell the cemetery to a private corporation for cemetery purposes. Under certain circumstances, township cemetery funds may be used for maintenance and support of a cemetery in adjoining cities or townships. Additional information is available in Iowa Code sections 359.28 through 359.41; 317.5; and 566.19 through 566.26.
Township Halls:If a township owns, or acquires by lease with an option to purchase, a public hall, a township may levy funds to maintain said building. Said building shall be within the boundaries of the township. The township clerk, under the direction of the township trustees, shall be the custodian of the building, and the use thereof may be permitted by the township trustees to citizens of the township for any lawful purpose. Additional information is available in Iowa Code Chapter 360.
Compensation of Township Officials
The Board of Supervisors determines the pay of township officials, and must provide the funds to pay township officials. (359.46)
In Jones County, township trustees are paid $25.00 per meeting. Township clerks are paid $25.00 per meeting and $8.50 per hour for clerical time necessary for township business.
Township Tax Levies
Township budgets inform the taxpayer what services tax monies are being requested for. Townships are required to use those funds for only those purposes. Townships cannot use fire funds for cemetery purposes, or owned cemetery funds for non-owned cemetery purposes, etc. Proposed township budgets are posted in the public area of the Jones County Courthouse at least ten days prior to a township budget hearing. Adopted township budgets must be certified to the County Auditor by March 15th of each calendar year, and take effect the following July 1. Copies of adopted township budgets are available for public review in the County Auditor’s Office during normal business hours.
Townships are limited in the amounts that may be levied for certain purposes:
Fire and emergency services levy rate is 40 and ½ cents per thousand, with an additional 20 and ¼ cents available if needed, for a maximum levy of 60 and ¾ cents per thousand (359.43).
Ambulance service, if levied, is part of the total fire and emergency services levy, but may be separated for administrative purposes. If a township levies for ambulance services, and some do, it reduces the amount of funds that may be levied for fire protection.
Up to 30 cents per thousand of the fire and emergency services levy rate may be credited annually to a reserve for fire equipment or supply purchases. Interest held in reserve funds must be credited to this fund.
Non-owned cemetery levy rate is 6 and ¾ cents per thousand. (359.33)
Owned cemetery levy rate has no maximum. Townships may levy as much as needed for a cemetery that is owned by a township. (359.30)
Township hall repair levy rate is 13 and ½ cents per thousand, with certain exceptions. (360.9)
Township trustees are a public body and their meetings must be in compliance with Iowa’s open meetings laws (Chapter 21). Township meetings must be open to the public. All township meeting notices are posted at the Courthouse at least twenty-four hours prior to the meeting.
The trustees must meet at least twice each year. One of those meetings is required to hear comments and objections to the proposed budget. (359.17) It would seem practical to meet at least three times each year:
1. To determine the proposed budget and set the date of the budget hearing.
2. Budget hearing meeting (required). (359.17 & 359.49)
3. Review and sign the annual report by September 30.
Notice of the budget hearing is required to be posted at the courthouse. The Auditor posts this notice when the clerk files the proposed budget worksheet.
Participation in meetings may be by telephone to achieve a quorum, if public access to the conversation of the meeting is provided to the extent reasonably possible.
Election/Appointment/Vacancies of Township Officials
A township officer shall be a resident of the township, and may be a resident of a city within respective township (this previously only applied to township clerks). (39.22 subsection 2).
Election of Township Officials
Township officials are elected for a four-year term at general elections. Two trustees are elected during the presidential year election cycle, and the clerk and third trustee during the gubernatorial election cycle. Vacancies that have been filled by appointment are elected at the next general election, to fill the remainder of the regular term.
A person who wishes to run for township official (a non-partisan office) in the General Election must file a notarized affidavit of candidacy with the County Auditor during the filing period in August of the appropriate election year.
A write-in candidate for township official at the General Election is declared the winner if the candidate receives one more vote than any other candidate for that office (and otherwise qualifies, ie. resident of the township).
There is no minimum number of votes a township candidate must receive at a General Election, the candidate must just receive more votes than any other person for the office to be declared the winner. If there is a tie, the Board of Supervisors, acting as the Board of Canvassers, will draw lots to determine the winner during the canvass of the election results, as provided by law.
Vacancies in a Township Office (69.8, subsection 5)
If the township clerk resigns, the township trustees shall appoint a replacement to hold office until the next election. If the trustees fail to appoint a clerk within thirty days, the appointment shall be made by the Board of Supervisors.
If a township trustee resigns, the two remaining trustees shall appoint a replacement to hold office until the next election. If the trustees fail to appoint a trustee within thirty days, the appointment shall be made by the Board of Supervisors.
If there is only one remaining trustee, the appointments shall be made by the Board of Supervisors. One trustee, acting on his/her own, cannot conduct township business.
If all three trustee positions are vacant the Board of Supervisors may appoint their replacements, or adopt a resolution stating the Board of Supervisors will take over the duties of township trustee until the vacancies are filled at the next general election.
All township officials, whether appointed or elected, shall take an oath of office prior to conducting township business. A new oath of office must be taken for each term of office.
Resignations from township office are to be made in writing to the County Auditor (69.4).
Appointment Versus Election of All Township Officers (39.22)
The County Board of Supervisors may pass a resolution in favor of filling the offices of township trustee and clerk within a township by appointment by the Board, and may direct the County Auditor to submit the question to the voters of the township at the next general election. Only those voters residing inside the township, but outside the corporate limits of a city in the township, may vote on the question. The resolution shall apply to all townships which have not previously approved a proposition to fill township offices by appointment. If the proposition to fill the township offices by appointment is approved by a majority of those voting on the question, the Board shall fill the offices by appointment as the terms of office of the incumbent township officers expire. This process can be reversed by essentially the same procedure, except that a petition of ten eligible electors of a respective township must be submitted to the Board of Supervisors to proceed.
Additional Resources for Township Information
Code of Iowa
Fence Viewing Instructions and Forms (Iowa State University Extension Service)
Township Trustee & Clerk Orientation Booklet (Iowa State University Extension Service)
Iowa Open Meetings, Open Records Handbook (Iowa Freedom of Information Council)