Because they are closest to the ground and often considered the most efficient form of government, it’s interesting to see how Minnesota’s nearly 1,800 townships are handling the current financial pressures. As MPR News reporter Mark Steil points out on the Minnesota Today blog both spending and revenues were up in 2009, the most recent year available.
The numbers come from a state auditor’s report that looks at township finances over the past 10 years. As Steil reports, state auditor Rebecca Otto offers no major concerns about township financial houses.
Townships used to get about half their money from local property taxes. But the state took away big chunks of aid some years ago, and now townships get about 70 percent of their money — most of which is spent on roads and bridges — from local taxes.
One nugget in the report will be interesting to track. In constant dollars, both revenue and spending had been declining for a number of years, but that trend reversed in 2009. Since almost 20 percent of Minnesotans live in townships, that’s not inconsequential. A caveat, however: Not all townships obey the law requiring them to report to the state auditor, so there’s some fluctuation in how many reports come in each year. The number was up a little in 2009.