Cities and villages in Ohio, which all sprang from townships, are an extra layer of local government which exist above townships. Once the territory of a township is completely enveloped by cities and villages, the township government ceases to function under ORC 703.22. Often an entire township has been incorporated under a different name, such as Van Buren Township in Montgomery County, which became the City of Kettering in 1955. Another example is Mill Creek Township in south-central Hamilton County, which was absorbed by the City of Cincinnati in the 19th century.
Another type of paper township is a township which can exist nominally in rump form but have no government because it is unpopulated. On January 23, 1981, Wayne Township in Montgomery County was re-incorporated as the city of Huber Heights. However, a small portion of Wayne Township east of the Mad River was part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Under ORC 709.01 territory on military installations can not be incorporated without the approval of the Secretary of Defense. Thus, that portion of Wayne Township still nominally exists, but has no local government. It is the only such type of paper township in Ohio.
As of the 2010 Census, there were 16 paper townships of this kind in Ohio, 15 of which were wholly within the boundaries of a city or village, and one of which was unpopulated.
Another kind of paper township allows a city or village to become completely independent of the real township from which it was created. Usually coextensive with the municipality, it prevents property owners within city limits from voting in both city and township elections but also relieves them of having to pay property taxes to both governments. According to Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Deters, upon its creation, the paper township "will effectively never exist because its offices would be immediately abolished under ORC 703.22 when it is created."
A municipality that spans multiple counties, such as Loveland, may withdraw from each of its townships. However, no township may span county lines; therefore, multiple paper townships must be erected in order for the municipality to completely withdraw. When the municipality annexes additional land, township boundaries must be explicitly adjusted to reflect the change. Under 1953 case law, a paper township may not be considered an adjoining township for the purpose of dissolving a township.
A paper township does not have to share the municipality's name. For example:
- Louisville's Constitution Township is named after the city's nickname.
- Fairfield's two paper townships were named Heritage by the county commissioners of Butler and Hamilton counties because Butler County already had a Fairfield Township – the one from which Fairfield withdrew.
- Canal Fulton's Milan Township is named after one of two villages that Canal Fulton annexed in the 1850s.
Withdrawal via paper townships can dramatically reduce a real township's territory and tax base. Columbia Township in Hamilton County and Lemon Township in Butler County were once large and populous but gradually shrank to small, discontiguous neighborhoods as surrounding cities and villages withdrew and continued to annex township land. A township can merge with another township or municipality either through a referendum or with the consent of the relevant boards of trustees or councils.
As of the 2010 Census, 258 municipal corporations (179 cities and 79 villages) have fully or partially withdrawn from functioning townships to create this kind of paper township. Of those partially withdrawn, 24 are cities and 3 are villages.
- "Guide to State and Local Census Geography" (PDF). Census Bureau. United State Census Bureau. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- Houck, Jeanne (2010-12-03). "Loveland heads off double taxation". The Loveland Herald. Loveland, Ohio: The Community Press. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
Here's how Loveland City Manager Tom Carroll defines a 'paper' township: 'A paper township is common for villages and cities, and it is a legal mechanism to remove property annexed into a city from the township in which it was originally situated...'
- Deters, Joseph T. (December 13, 1994). "Letter to Hamilton County Board of Commissioners" (PDF). Retrieved November 3, 2012.
- Prince, Charles (February 12, 2011). "Trustee questions fairness of dual taxation". The Buckeye Lake Beacon. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- Liebler, Kym; Albert, Tanya (May 12, 1998). "If township ends, what happens?". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Gannett Company. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
But based on a quick review, Mason likely would not be able to absorb Deerfield Township if it were dissolved, said Cheryl Subler, policy analyst for the County Commissioner Association of Ohio. According to 1953 case law, a paper township 'may not be considered an adjoining township,' she said.
- Harbaugh, Richard. "Mayor's Fall Newlestter Article". City of Canal Fulton. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- "History". City of Canal Fulton. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- Heffner, Jessica (August 14, 2011). "Decimated by annexations, township's future is bleak". Hamilton JournalNews. Hamilton, Ohio: Cox Media Group. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
- Callahan, Denise G. (June 22, 2014). "Townships struggle to survive state cuts". Journal-News. Liberty Township, Butler County, Ohio: Cox Media Group. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
- "History of the Township". Columbia Township, Hamilton County, Ohio. Retrieved September 16, 2019.