Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.

VIII. Abolishing townships

Presenting the question

The question, “Shall township organization form of county government be abolished in County?” must be presented to voters if the county commission receives petitions seeking action, which are signed by 10 percent of the number of voters for governor at the last general election. Petitions presented after May of even-numbered years are voted on in November, and other petitions are voted on at a special election within six months. A simple majority decides the question (65.610).


Once the question of either adoption or abolition has been on the ballot, it cannot be presented again for at least two years. Many counties have voted on this multiple times. Only two counties have ever voted in favor of a change -- Daviess and Wright. Daviess reversed the decision in a short time (65.610).

Procedures if abolished

Should the voters accept the proposition to abolish townships in a county, the change takes effect immediately. All township property becomes the property of the county, including real estate and road machinery and equipment. All terms of township officials end. The trustee turns over the township checkbook and any balance to the county clerk. The township no longer exists as a political subdivision the day following the election, and all decisions are the county's (65.620).

The county treasurer ex officio collector becomes the county collector and operates under the statutes applicable to county collectors in RSMo. Chapter 52. This appointment lasts until March 1 following the next general election, at which time an elected collector is installed. If this general election is not scheduled for the collector, as required under Chapter 52, the person elected serves until March 1 following the general election specified for election of collectors.

A county treasurer is appointed to function as prescribed in RSMo. Chapter 54. This appointment runs until the election of a treasurer in the manner prescribed in Chapter 54.

Influence on tax rates

The township general revenue levy is the result of an 80- to 20-percent split of the county levy rate. If a township is eliminated, this taxing authority returns to the county, increasing the county general revenue tax-rate ceiling.

Audit report on abolishment

The abolishment of township government in Wright County was audited by the Missouri Office of State Auditor. "The Abolishment of Township Government in Wright County" audit (Report No. 2001-120, Dec. 28, 2001) would be useful to any county considering abolition of township government.

Should voters favor abolition, there are a number of unknowns. What would happen to zoning in townships that had adopted that option? Would a code that voters in a township had accepted be repealed by the township's abolition? If the zoning code remained, who would administer it with the township out of existence? (Counties have no partial zoning option.)

Similar questions arise regarding the levy rate for roads and bridges. In most counties, different townships have different rates. Adopting county organization would require a single rate, but how this would be established is unknown. Some think that to set the rate, the total revenues raised through the individual township levies should be calculated against the countywide assessed valuation, but there is no basis for this in the statutes. It is unknown whether this would violate the Missouri Constitution's ban on rates above those in place Nov. 4, 1980, without voter approval. Requests for legal opinions on these points have been unsuccessful, since such opinions would be speculating about conditions that do not presently exist.