Township Day set for next week
FAIRMONT — On March 9, 2021, Minnesota’s 1,781 townships will each be holding their annual meeting on Township Day. According to information provided by Leslie Rosedahl of Rosedahl Public Affairs, Township Day meetings are held every year on the second Tuesday in March. Township residents will meet to voice their opinions about local issues and vote directly on their annual tax levy, and many will hold their township officer elections.
Townships were the original form of local government in Minnesota, established in the 1800s when Congress ordered a survey that divided the Minnesota territory into 36 square mile tracts of land. Today, the term “township” generally refers to public corporations governed by a local board of supervisors and created to provide services to residents.
Steve Fenske, General Counsel at the Minnesota Association of Townships, explains the specifics of Township Day meetings.
“Normally, what you get is a town hall-style meeting where voters come in, fill the room, sit down and elect a moderator,” he said. “That person’s going to run the meeting for them. Then they set an agenda and start to take comments and questions.
“There are powers that are given to voters in a township, and that’s something unique. There’s no other group, no other local government that gets this kind of direct vote. For example, they will end up voting on their property tax levy and they’re the only group that gets to directly set that levy for themselves.
“That’s a pretty amazing power, it’s a group deciding what they’re going to tax themselves. It’s amazing to watch, sometimes they’ll raise taxes on themselves because they see a need.”
Another power held by local townships is the ability to decide if any new buildings or structures are needed. According to Fenske, that’s a process that elected officials can’t do on their own.
“They need voter approval, and they need voters to set the amount they can spend,” he said. He further noted that township meetings are also an opportunity for people to talk among themselves and give any desired messages to elected officials about how they want things to go.
“These meetings can really affect the township, especially when it comes to the levy. We’ve seen townships set a pretty big increase because they have some spending they need to do. Others will zero it out for a year because they think they have enough money in the bank or, at times, they don’t understand how that money affects their roads, or maintenance, or a fire contract. There’s a lot of things that go into maintaining a township.”
Like everything else, Township Day meetings will look a little different in 2021 due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Fenske notes that some townships will meet physically with masks and social distancing, while others may utilize conference calls or virtual meetings. Some townships will officially start their meetings but then “pause” business so that full participation can occur in better weather at outdoor meetings.
People who are interested in attending are encouraged to do so. Specific information can be found by contacting their township clerk.