The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -
www.ag.state.mi.us) STATE OF MICHIGAN JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
STATE OF MICHIGAN
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
Township donating money to school district/public library
A township is not authorized to donate township funds to a combined school district/public library, but may enter into a contract to provide township funds to the library in return for library services to township residents.
Opinion No. 7111
June 17, 2002
Honorable Don Koivisto
Lansing, MI 48913
You have asked whether a township is authorized to donate township funds to a combined school district/public library that provides library services to its residents.
Information supplied with your request indicates that a combined school district/public library provides library services to residents of a township. The township's legislative body, however, has not contracted for library services from the public library. In order to assist the public library in its delivery of services, the township board proposes to donate township funds to the public library. My staff is informed by the Library of Michigan that the library in question is a combined school/public library established by a school district under the authority of Part 20, section 1451 of the Revised School Code, 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.1 et seq. The township in question is within the legal service area of the combined school/public library. Three other townships, located outside the library's legal service area, receive library services for their residents pursuant to contracts with the combined school/public library.
Const 1963, art 7, § 17, provides that "[e]ach organized township shall be a body corporate with powers and immunities provided by law." As an instrumentality of the state for the purpose of providing local government services, a township has only the powers and authority "prescribed by law." Hanslovsky v Leland Twp, 281 Mich 652, 655; 275 NW 720 (1937). Local units of government "have no inherent powers and possess only those limited powers which are expressly conferred upon them by the state constitution or state statutes." Hanselman v Wayne County Concealed Weapon Licensing Bd, 419 Mich 168, 187; 351 NW 2d 544 (1984).
The Attorney General has concluded that in the absence of statutory authority, a township may not make a gift of township funds to a county road commission to assist in creation of a county overnight camp, OAG, 1949-1950, No 871, p 89 (January 11, 1949), or to pay money to a county to discharge the private debts of township taxpayers, OAG, 1947-1948, No 622, p 495 (April 8, 1948), regardless of the desirability of such a gift and the availability of township funds to pay the gift, 2 OAG, 1956, No 2789, p 647 (November 7, 1956). On the other hand, OAG, 1977-1978, No 5250, p 297 (December 28, 1977), concluded that a county may expend a portion of its funds for township library services for county residents. That opinion specifically noted, however, that the County Libraries Act, 1917 PA 138, MCL 397.301 et seq, "authorizes counties to enter into contractual relationships with townships whereby such counties are permitted to give financial assistance to township libraries in return for library services to be furnished county residents." Id. at 298.
Research discloses no constitutional or statutory authority for a township to make donations of public funds to a school district/public library. Various state statutes do, however, authorize a township to provide financial support for a school district or public library pursuant to a contract or agreement with the library that provides or is willing to provide library services to township residents. For example, a township could contract with a school district or a public library for library services under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967, MCL 124.501 et seq. In addition, under the District Library Establishment Act, MCL 397.171 et seq, a township could enter into an agreement with a city, village, school district, another township, or county to establish a district library or to join an established district library, and to appropriate township funds for such purposes. A township may also use statutes that authorize appropriations in support of services to senior citizens (MCL 400.571 et seq), and in support of activities to preserve township history (MCL 399.161 and MCL 399.171 et seq), as a basis for agreements with a public library. See, for example, OAG, 1999-2000, No 7016, p 24 (May 13, 1999); OAG, 1977-1978, No 5402, p 714 (December 13, 1978).
It is my opinion, therefore, that a township is not authorized to donate township funds to a combined school district/public library, but may enter into a contract to provide township funds to the library in return for library services to township residents.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM