Holton Township Board
There are two types of townships in Michigan—general law and charter townships. Charter township status is a special township classification created by the Michigan Legislature in 1947 to provide additional powers and stream-lined administration for governing a growing community. Holton is a general law township.
Holton Township Board Members
Township government is conducted by a township board consisting of either five or seven members—a clerk, supervisor, treasurer, and two or four trustees—that is determined by the desires of the township residents, whether the township has a population of over 3,000 or 5,000 registered electors, and if the township has charter status. The township board may also hire a manager, assessor, police or fire chief, superintendent and other necessary personnel to properly and efficiently operate the township. State laws authorize townships to perform a wide variety of functions in two important categories: mandated and permissive. Mandated functions are activities that townships are required to perform. The three broadest mandated responsibilities are assessment administration, elections administration and tax collection, which are legally assigned functions of the supervisor, clerk and treasurer, respectively. State laws also specify details for performing these functions.
In addition to these broad mandates, there are other, more narrow state requirements. Procedures for the township’s financial administration, such as budgets, accounting, investments and deposits, are closely regulated by the state. Township meetings must comply with Michigan’s Open Meetings Act (MCL 15.261-15.275), and township records must be stored and made available in conformance with specific laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act (MCL 15.231-15.246).
The Township Zoning Act (MCL 125.271-125.310) gives townships broad powers to enact and enforce ordinances. Zoning ordinances give townships the authority to regulate land use, while many other specific ordinances control activities that infringe on the rights of citizens.
The Michigan Constitution and state statutes also limit the amount of property tax millage that townships can levy for general township operations. General law townships are allocated at least 1 mill from the constitutionally limited 15/18 mills allocated among townships, the county, public schools and the intermediate school district. Charter townships, like cities, do not share in this allocated millage, but townships chartered by a referendum may levy up to 5 mills. Townships chartered by board resolution after November 22, 1978, must have a vote of the electors authorizing the levy of 5 mills. In either case, the 5 mill limit may be increased up to 10 mills with a vote of the electors.
Townships also utilize other sources of revenue to support services. User fees, permits, fines and special assessments on real property are the most frequently used sources.
Townships serve other governmental units by providing tax collection services. To avoid imposing an unnecessary burden on citizens to pay separate property taxes to the township, schools, special assessment districts and the county, Michigan townships provide uniform assessment of property values and collect all property taxes on behalf of the other units of government. Only a very small portion of the taxes collected are retained by the township for its own operating purposes.
Michigan townships, large and small, provide services tailored to meet the needs of their residents. Township officials represent the level of government closest and most responsive to the wishes of the people.
The term of office for all township officials is four years. The terms commence at 12 p.m. on November 20 following the November general election, provided the newly elected officials have qualified for office by that time. To qualify, a successful candidate must file any necessary bond and take an oath of office before the township clerk or other officer qualified to administer the oath, such as a county clerk, notary public or judge. Other township officers authorized to administer the oath are the deputy clerk, supervisor and deputy supervisor.
The supervisor, clerk, treasurer and trustee must take the oath of office before entering into the duties of their offices. (MCL 168.363) The deputy supervisor (MCL 41.61(2)), deputy clerk (MCL 41.69) and deputy treasurer (MCL 41.77) must take the oath after their appointment and before entering into office.
In addition, the township clerk (MCL 41.69) and the township treasurer (MCL 41.77) are required to be bonded.
The clerk (MCL 41.69) and the treasurer (MCL 41.77) must each appoint a deputy. The deputy clerk and deputy treasurer must also be bonded. The supervisor may appoint a deputy (MCL 41.61). Deputy township officials are authorized to act as the elected official in the event of the official’s absence, sickness, death or other disability. A deputy may not, however, vote as a member of the township board. With the official’s approval and the consent of the township board, a deputy may assist the elected official at any additional times agreed to by the board and the official. Deputies are not required to be residents of the township, and may be paid compensation as determined by the township board.
The supervisor is frequently the first official contacted about any township business or complaint and is often perceived as the township spokesperson. It must be realized, however, that the authority of the supervisor is limited to that provided by statute or delegated by the township board.
When present, the supervisor is the moderator of any township meeting, with the authority to place a person under oath on any statement made in his or her official capacity as supervisor. S/he also has the right and duty to regulate the proceedings of any meeting, including deciding questions of order, making declaration of votes cast, granting authority to persons to speak at the meeting and silencing those who may be out of order or disrupting the meeting (MCL 41.97-41.99).
As a member of the township board, the supervisor should vote on all issues upon which a vote is required, unless there is a conflict of interest or some proper legal reason for abstaining. Under the oath of office, as with all other elected officials, the supervisor is required to support the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions and “faithfully discharge the duties of the office of supervisor according to the best of my ability.” The supervisor may call special meetings of the township board that otherwise can only be called by a written request of a majority of the township board members or by a majority vote at a previous meeting.
Property assessment responsibilities
The supervisor is the chief assessing officer of the township, responsible for assessing property values within the township at 50 percent of its true cash value (MCL 41.61). Even if s/he is not a certified assessor, s/he is still responsible for this duty. Any other assessors required to perform the function are subordinate to the supervisor. In assessing property, the supervisor and assessing officials may use only those manuals approved by the State Tax Commission. The township board is authorized to appoint additional assessors and is required to do so if the supervisor is not certified. Such assessors still remain subordinate to the supervisor.
The supervisor is the township’s agent for transacting all legal business, upon whom suits may be brought and defended and upon whom all process against the township is served. Unless some other official has been so designated, the supervisor is considered the chief administrative officer for the development of the township budget. If authorized by the township board, the supervisor may appoint someone to assist in performing official duties and provide compensation as the township board may determine.
Planning commission members are appointed by the supervisor, with township board approval. The supervisor, clerk and treasurer constitute the board of township election commissioners in a general law township, with the clerk acting as its chairperson. This board is in general charge of elections within the township under the supervision of the secretary of state.
In addition to statutory duties and responsibilities, the supervisor is frequently delegated additional functions and duties by the township board. The supervisor may be paid extra compensation for non-statutory duties provided the sum is established before the duty is performed (MCL 41.96 and Article XI, Sec. 3, of the Michigan Constitution).
a) to see that all laws and township ordinances are enforced;
b) to manage and supervise all public improvements, works and undertakings of the township
c) to have charge of the construction, repair, maintenance, lighting and cleaning of streets, sidewalks, bridges, pavements, sewers, and all public buildings or other property belonging to the township;
d) to manage and supervise the operation of all township utilities;
e) to be responsible for the preservation of property, tools and appliances of the township;
f) to see that all terms and conditions imposed in favor of the township or its inhabitants in any public utility franchise or in any contract are faithfully kept and performed;
g) to attend all township board meetings with the right of the supervisor to discuss issues, but not vote;
h) to be an ex-officio member of all committees of the township board;
i) to prepare and administer the annual budget under policies formulated by the township board and keep the board fully advised at all times as to the financial condition and needs of the township;
j) to recommend to the township board for adoption such measures as s/he may deem necessary or expedient;
k) to be responsible to the township board for the efficient administration of all departments of the township government;
l) to act as the purchasing agent for the township or, under his responsibility, delegate such duties to some other officer or employee;
m) to conduct all sales of personal property that the township board may authorize to be sold;
n) to assume all the duties and responsibilities as personnel director of all township employees or delegate such duties to some other officer or employee, and
o) to perform such other duties as may be prescribed by this act or required by ordinance or by direction of the township board or which are not assigned to some other official in conformity with the provisions of this act (MCL 42.10, etc.)
Upon receipt of the tax roll, the treasurer shall proceed to collect taxes, account for, and deliver to the county treasurer and other tax assessing entities. There are two types of taxes the treasurer is charged with collecting: real property taxes and personal property taxes. The tax amount is based on the taxable value of the property and the millage assessed by the entity.
By State statute, the treasurer is required to receive and take charge of all funds belonging to the township or which are required by law to be paid into the township treasury, and to pay over and account for the funds according to law or township board decision.
It is very important that the township treasurer diligently maintain accurate records of all income, receipts, and disbursements. The treasurer should maintain a uniform system of accounting as promulgated by the state treasurer and should keep an accurate accounting for each township fund so that s/he can accurately report on the status of those funds. In February 1997, the Township received its first award for Financial Reporting Achievement from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.
The treasurer shall invest public funds as directed by the township board in lawful investments as authorized by state statute and township investment policy. The township received a Certificate of Excellence in 1995 for its first investment policy. All funds are invested in accordance with the objectives as set forth in the following order of importance: 1) Safety of capital, 2) Liquidity, and 3) Return on Investment. A quarterly investment report is presented to the township board for approval and made available to the public.
The statutory duties of the clerk are numerous, technical and legally essential to the proper operation of municipal government.
The clerk has custody of all records, books and papers of the township, if no other law so provides. The clerk must file and retain all certificates of oaths and other papers required to be filed in his or her office. All records must be kept by the clerk in a safe and proper place where they will not be exposed to any unusual hazard of fire or theft. They must be delivered to the successor in office. All records of the township, except those which have some confidential character, are public records that are open to inspection at reasonable times and places under the supervision of the clerk or other official appropriately having custody of the record.
The clerk must also open and keep an account with the township treasurer, charging the treasurer with all funds which are received by the treasurer by virtue of that office and crediting the treasurer with monies paid out on the order of the proper township authorities. The date and amount of all vouchers must be entered in a book kept by the clerk. The clerk is also required to keep a separate account for each of the several funds belonging to the township, crediting and debiting the same in accordance with proper receipts and warrants drawn by the township treasurer. The clerk is responsible for the detailed accounting records of the township utilizing the Uniform Chart of Accounts prescribed by the state treasurer. The clerk must also prepare and maintain the journals and ledgers necessary to reflect the assets, liabilities, fund equities, revenues and expenditures for each fund of the township.
The township clerk is the ex-officio clerk of the township’s civil service commission for police or fire departments, if one is established. The clerk is required to supply clerical services to the commission without extra compensation.
The township clerk should maintain accurate records and an organized filing system of township resolutions, ordinances and other special proceedings or activities that can be readily produced upon requesLike the supervisor, clerk and treasurer, the trustees are members of the township board with an equal vote in legislative and administrative government decisions within the jurisdiction of the township board. Unlike the supervisor, clerk and treasurer, however, trustees are not delegated specific statutory duties and responsibilities. As previously indicated, trustees serve terms of four years just like the supervisor, clerk and treasurer.
In Townships having a population of 5,000 or more, or having 3,000 or more qualified and registered electors as shown by registration records at the close of registration for the November election, four trustees may be elected (MCL 168.358(3)). The four trustees shall be elected at the first regular township election held after the additional trustees have been authorized.
As the name implies, a trustee is an individual placed in a position of public trust with fiduciary responsibilities to manage the affairs of the township for the best interests of the public. The trustee has the responsibility to attend township board meetings and participate in decisions and deliberations.
Trustees should be given an opportunity to investigate and study important decisions before voting. Trustees are frequently given additional duties and responsibilities by township board action.
The previous descriptions were partially excerpted from Authorities & Responsibilities of Michigan Township Officials, Boards and Commissions published by the Michigan Townships Association, copyright 1995, and their website.
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