What\’S The Difference Between A Township And A City

When it comes to organization of local governments, there are a wide array of options available, from small townships to large cities. However, it is not always clear what the difference is between these various types of governments, nor which one is right for a given situation. In this article, we will go over the key differences between townships and cities, as well as explore some of the reasons why one might be a better fit than the other.

What is a Township?

In the United States, a township is a type of local government that typically covers a smaller area than a city or county. Townships are most commonly found in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the country, but can also be found in other areas as well. In general, townships are characterized by their rural and suburban locations, and often serve as a way to provide local services in areas that might not be large enough to support a full-fledged city or county government.

One key feature of townships is that they are typically governed by an elected board of trustees, rather than by a mayor or city council. This board is responsible for making decisions about how to allocate the township’s resources, as well as for setting policies and regulations. Additionally, townships may offer a variety of services to their residents, such as garbage collection, road maintenance, and public parks.

What is a City?

A city, on the other hand, is a type of municipality that has a larger population and more densely populated area than a township. Cities are found all across the United States, and are generally located in more urban areas. Because of their larger size, cities are able to offer a wider variety of services and amenities to their residents than townships are. This can include everything from public transportation to cultural events to municipal utilities.

Most cities are governed by an elected mayor and city council, which are responsible for setting policies and regulations, as well as making decisions about how to allocate the city’s resources. Additionally, cities may have a number of different departments and agencies that are responsible for providing specific services to residents, such as libraries, police and fire departments, and public works.

Key Differences Between Townships and Cities

Now that we have a basic understanding of what townships and cities are, let’s look at some of the key differences between the two.

Population Size and Density: One of the biggest differences between townships and cities is the size of the population that they serve. Generally speaking, townships are smaller and have a lower population density than cities. This means that they may not be able to support the same level of services and amenities that a city can, but may offer a more rural or suburban lifestyle.

Type of Services: As we mentioned above, townships and cities offer different types of services to their residents. Townships may focus more on providing basic services like road maintenance and garbage collection, while cities may offer more complex services like public transportation and cultural programs. Additionally, cities may have more specialized departments like zoning and planning, historic preservation, or economic development.

Form of Governance: Another key difference between townships and cities is the form of governance. Townships are typically governed by an elected board of trustees, while cities are governed by an elected mayor and city council. This can affect the way decisions are made and the type of policies and regulations that are put in place.

Taxation: Because townships and cities have different responsibilities and types of services, they may also have different methods of taxation. Generally speaking, townships may have lower taxes and rely more heavily on property taxes, while cities may have a broader range of taxes (such as sales tax) and be able to generate more revenue overall.


Q: Can a township become a city, or vice versa?
A: Yes, it is possible for a township to incorporate as a city, or for a city to become a township. This process can be initiated by a petition or by the state government, and typically involves a vote of the residents in the affected area.

Q: Are townships and cities both considered local governments?
A: Yes, both townships and cities are forms of local government.

Q: Are townships always located in rural areas, and cities always located in urban areas?
A: No, while townships are more commonly found in rural and suburban areas, they can also exist in urban areas. Similarly, while cities are typically found in urban areas, they can also exist in rural or suburban areas.

Q: Do townships and cities have the same powers and responsibilities?
A: No, townships and cities have different powers and responsibilities based on their size, location, and form of governance.


In conclusion, the main difference between townships and cities is their size, with townships typically having a smaller population and more rural location than cities. This difference is reflected in the types of services that they offer, the form of governance, and the methods of taxation. Ultimately, the choice between a township and a city will depend on a variety of factors, including the location and needs of the community in question.