2023 Annual Meeting is March 14th at 8:00 pm at Wilma Town Hall
Townships are the original form of local government in Minnesota. The township form of government, a carryover from Europe, served as a familiar building block to develop the State by dividing land areas into 36 square mile units. As of 2009 statistics, Minnesota had 1786 organized townships governed by local boards of supervisors. The Township provides, or contributes to the providing of, the following services to its residents as provided by statute: public safety and emergency services, road and bridge maintenance, parks and recreation, public improvements, planning and zoning, general administrative and other services.
Townships powers are derived from state statutes. A town board of supervisors, elected to staggered two – six year terms makes up the governing body for most townships. The board of supervisors in most townships consists of three members elected by the residents. Supervisors must be residents of the township.
The annual meeting is what really sets townships apart from other forms of local government. At this meeting, the residents of the township have a direct opportunity to have a voice in how the township will be run. They do this by voting on a variety of matters on which the town board must receive elector approval, and most importantly, by directly voting on and approving the township’s tax levy for the next year. This means that, with very limited exception, the town board can only spend that which has been authorized by the voters.
The board of supervisors are joined by a township clerk and a township treasurer. Most townships elect these positions, with the clerk being elected in the even years and the treasurer being elected in the odd years. In 2005, Lent residents voted to make the clerk’s office a position to be filled by the appointment of the board of supervisors. The appointed clerk may be a non-resident of the township. Minnesota statutes encourage the appointments of a deputy clerk and deputy treasurer to ensure continuity of the clerk and treasurer duties in the event of an absence.
While supervisors are the only ones with an official vote on most final decisions, the clerk and treasurer positions are vital to the operation of the town and their participation may be allowed by the town board. Townships must also comply with State and Federal mandates and, in the case of planning and zoning, must be consistent with or more restrictive than county regulations.
Day-to-day paperwork is usually handled by the town clerk. Most townships divide up certain tasks, such as overseeing work by contractors, which would be done by staff in other units of government, making townships the most economical form of government. The board of supervisors appoints one of their own to serve as the chairperson, although other than running the board meetings and being the person required to sign official documents and checks, the chairperson has no extra powers. Only the board as a whole can make decisions binding on the entity. Township officers attend several training sessions per year to keep current on the ever changing township issues, procedures and legislation.
Local property taxes, intergovernmental grants, charges for services, license and permit fees, and interest on savings account for most of the revenue received by townships. Most township expenses are road and bridge expenditures, general government expenses, fire protections services and debt payments and other expenditures.
As shown by the following procedures, township government by its very nature is an open form of government: Townships voluntarily provide access to public data upon reasonable requests. All meetings of the town board and any official township committees are accessible to members of the public and are preceded by proper notice. The minutes of the proceedings of the governing body are kept and available for review by members of the public. Notice of all ordinances adopted or amended by the town board are published in the designated official newspaper of general circulation within the township. At the annual meeting, the residents authorize the annual levy which controls the amount of expenditures that may be made by the board of supervisors.