"Michigan's townships are the form of government closest to the people. The epitome of local democracy, elected township leaders are truly "neighbors serving neighbors," offering accountable, effective and efficient representation and services to their residents."
- Michigan Townships Association
General Information on Michigan Townships and Charter Townships
There are 1,240 civil townships in Michigan's 83 counties. This list includes both general law townships and charter townships. Most of these townships (at least in the Lower Peninsula) are based on survey townships of 36 square miles.
What is a Charter Township?
A charter township is a form of local government in Michigan. Townships in Michigan are organized governments. A charter township has been granted a charter, which allows it certain rights and responsibilities of home rule that are generally intermediate between those of a city (a semi-autonomous jurisdiction in Michigan) and a village. Unless it is a home-rule village, the latter is subject to the authority of any township in which it is located.
History of Charter Townships
Seeing the pressure of urbanization in many post-war communities, the State Legislature created a special charter township status in 1947, which grants additional powers and streamlined administration in order to provide greater protection against annexation of a township's land by cities and villages.
A township with a population of 2,000 or more may incorporate as a charter township and become a municipal corporation, which possesses all the powers of a non-charter township, in addition to those specified by the Charter Township Act of 1947.
Charter Township Government Structure
Legislative authority is exercised by an elected township board of seven members, consisting of the supervisor, the township clerk, the township treasurer, and four trustees, who are eligible to vote in elections and are residents of the township. All members of the board serve four-year terms. Unlike the boards for general law townships, which may have either five or seven members, a charter township must have seven members. Charter townships may appoint either a township superintendent or township manager, who can be assigned responsibilities for managing township functions (this is comparable to cities that hire a city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city). Otherwise, executive authority lies with the supervisor and various committees.
A charter township may establish a variety of municipal services, such as a police force, a fire department, and assessors. It may also acquire property, borrow money, and issue bonds, with the approval of a majority of the township voting in an election. Similarly, a charter township cannot levy taxes without the approval of a majority of the township population voting in an election. This is one significant difference from home-rule municipalities, in which the municipal authority can levy taxes without specific approval from voters.
A charter township is mostly exempt from annexation from contiguous cities or villages providing that the township meets certain requirements:
- Has state equalized valuation of at least $25,000,000
- Has a minimum population density of 150 people per square mile (58/km²)
- Provides fire protection service by contract or otherwise
- Is governed by a comprehensive zoning ordinance or master plan
- Provides solid waste disposal services to township residents, within or without the township, by contract, license, or municipal ownership
- Provides water or sewer services, or both, by contract or otherwise
- Provides police protection through contract with the sheriff in addition to normal sheriff patrol, through an intergovernmental contract, or through its own police department
A charter township may still be subject to annexation under certain conditions, such as for the purpose of eliminating isolated islands of township or by vote of a majority of the residents of a portion of township. Temporary land transfers, which can involve charter townships, have provision under Public Act 425 of 1984. Under this statute, a charter township, for example, can have land transferred to a city in exchange for revenue sharing of the transferred parcels. These agreements, known as 425 Agreements, can last up to 50 years, and the land can either be completely transferred to the city or returned to the township upon fulfillment of the agreement.