Difference Between Township And City

The terms township and city are often used interchangeably, but they are two different types of municipal entities. Both townships and cities are designed to provide basic services such as police and fire protection, roads, and public works. However, they differ in their structures, powers, and responsibilities. In this article, we will explore the difference between township and city and compare them.


A township is a type of local government used in smaller jurisdictions. Its origin can be traced back to early colonial America, where land was divided into grid-like systems called survey townships. The survey townships were used to keep track of land ownership, and the concept of a township evolved from there.

Today, a township is typically a small, unincorporated area that is governed by a group of elected officials known as a board of supervisors. A township does not have the same powers as a city, and its focus is on providing basic services such as maintaining roads, managing parks, and coordinating emergency services with neighboring municipalities.

Townships are typically found in rural or semi-rural areas and are often made up of farms and small communities. They are most common in the northern and eastern regions of the United States, where colonial land survey rules apply.


A city is a larger municipality that enjoys certain legal powers and privileges that townships do not. Cities are incorporated, which means they have a charter that outlines their governance structure, powers, and responsibilities.

Cities are governed by elected officials, including a mayor and a city council. The mayor serves as the head of the city government and is responsible for executing and enforcing city policies. The city council is responsible for creating laws and ordinances that govern the city, as well as handling the budget and other administrative tasks.

Cities have more legal authority and can provide a wider range of services than townships. They can, for example, levy taxes, issue bonds, and create regulations related to zoning, parking, and businesses. Additionally, cities can maintain their own police and fire departments, as well as provide public transportation and other municipal services.


The primary difference between township and city is their legal structure and level of authority. Townships are smaller, unincorporated areas that provide basic municipal services, while cities are larger, incorporated areas with greater legal powers and can provide a wider range of services.

Another significant difference between townships and cities is their populations. Townships are typically smaller and have a population of fewer than 10,000 people. In contrast, cities can have populations ranging from tens of thousands to millions of people.

In terms of governance, both townships and cities are managed by elected officials. However, the governing body of a township is known as a board of supervisors, while a city has a mayor and city council.


Q: What is the difference between a township and a borough?
A: A borough is an incorporated municipality that has powers and responsibilities similar to a city. However, it is typically smaller in size and population than a city. A township, on the other hand, is an unincorporated area that provides basic municipal services.

Q: How does a township become a city?
A: For a township to become a city, it needs to incorporate. This involves creating a charter that outlines the governance structure, powers, and responsibilities of the new city. The charter needs to be approved by the state government, and the new city needs to have a certain minimum population and financial stability.

Q: Are cities always larger than townships?
A: Yes, cities are typically larger than townships in terms of both population and geographic area. While some townships may be larger than some cities in terms of area, cities tend to have larger populations and more densely populated urban cores.

Q: Can a city become a township?
A: No, a city cannot become a township. Once a municipality is incorporated as a city, it maintains that status indefinitely. However, a city can de-incorporate, which means it would become an unincorporated area governed by the county.

Q: Do townships and cities have the same powers?
A: No, townships and cities have different legal powers and responsibilities. Cities have broader authority than townships and can create and enforce their own laws and ordinances, levy taxes, and issue bonds. Townships, on the other hand, are limited to providing basic municipal services.