A charter township is a form of municipal government in Michigan. Unlike civil townships, which are a statutory unit of government in Michigan, charter townships are incorporated municipalities and are granted special privileges such as wide-range exemptions from annexation.


In 1947, the state legislature created a special charter township status, which grants additional powers and stream-lined administration in order to provide greater protection against annexation of a township's land by cities and villages. As of April 2005, there were 131 charter townships in Michigan.[1] A township with a population of at least 2,000 persons may incorporate as a charter township, thereby becoming a municipal corporation. The charter township government then possess all the powers of a civil township in addition to those specified by the Charter Township Act of 1947.


Legislative authority in the charter township government is exercised by a township board composed of seven members. The seven members include the supervisor, the township clerk, the township treasurer, and 4 trustees. All members must be eligible to vote in elections and reside within the township. All members of the board serve four-year terms. Unlike the boards for civil townships, which may have either five or seven members, a charter township must have seven members. If a general law township with a five-member board elects to become a charter township, two additional members are required to be elected in the next general election.[2]

Charter townships may appoint either a township superintendent or township manager, who can be assigned responsibilities for managing township functions. This is comparable to the manager-council form of government in use by some Michigan cities. In these cities, a city manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the city. Otherwise, executive authority is in the hands of the supervisor.


A charter township may establish a variety of municipal services, such as a police force, fire department, assessors and also acquire property. It may also borrow money and issue bonds, with the approval of a majority of township voting in an election. Similarly, a charter township cannot levy taxes without the approval of a majority of township 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. Land, however, can still be transferred between municipalities through 425 Agreements.


A charter township is mostly exempt from annexation from contiguous cities or villages providing that the township meets certain requirements:

  • Fire protection: A charter township must provide fire protection service by contract or otherwise.
  • Police protection and patrols: A charter township must provide police protection through contract with the sheriff in addition to normal sheriff patrol, through an intergovernmental contract, or through its own police department.
  • Population: The township must have a minimum population of 2,000 people and a minimum population density of 150 people per square mile.
  • Valuation: The township must have a state equalized valuation of at least $25,000,000.
  • Water and waste: The township must provide water or sewer services—possibly, both—by contract or otherwise. Additionally, the township must provide solid waste disposal services to township residents, either from within the township or an outside source. This may be done by contract, license, or municipal ownership.
  • Zoning: Is governed by a comprehensive zoning ordinance or master plan


  1. What is a Township? from the Michigan Township Association
  2. General Law or Charter Township? The Decision is Yours... Prepared by the Michigan Townships Association, February 2005

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