With the possibility of Holly, MI becoming a city, which we first reported earlier this week, we wondered: Could any village in Michigan do the same?

It turns out, it's not just a simple matter of voting in favor of "cityhood" for it to happen.

See Also: Did you know Michigan has a ghost town buried by a sand dune?

Why would a village want to become a city in Michigan?

In the case of Holly, MI, residents of the village could save money in annual taxes.

Credit: Google Street View
Credit: Google Street View
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They pay the township for shared services. And pay taxes for village-specific services.

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So, there could be an impactful savings to split from the township. Not to mention autonomy to set your own ordinances, policies, etc.

Can any Michigan village choose to become a city?

Surprisingly, no.

First, a village needs to have a population of, at least, 750 residents with a density of 500 persons per square mile. That's according to Michigan Municipal League.

Village of Gaines Marker Credit Google Street View
Village of Gaines Marker Credit Google Street View
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We'll use the Village of Gaines in Genesee County as one example. The village has approximately 375 residents according to the 2020 Census.

So, even if they wanted to become a city, they couldn't. (By the way, Gaines Township has over 6,000 residents.)

Then, there's Otisville, MI, a village in Forest Township.

Otisville Village Limits marker. Credit Google Street View
Otisville Village Limits marker. Credit Google Street View
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Because Otisville's population is just over 800 people and the village is one square mile, they could vote to become a city, if they wanted to do so.

Just under 4,500 people live in Forest Township as of the 2020 Census.

What changes when a village becomes a city?

Residents create a city charter, vote on laws, ordinances, policies, etc. But there's more.

Goodrich Village Marker Credit Google Street View
Goodrich Village Marker Credit Google Street View
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Three other important items:

  • Assessing property as a basis of county and school taxes.
  • Collecting taxes for the counties and schools.
  • Conducting county, state and national elections.

If the village doesn't already have police, fire and garbage services -- those will need to be solved for. And paying people to do those jobs.

Since Genesee County's Goodrich is a larger village with over 2,000 residents, they may want to investigate the benefits of becoming a city based on property taxes alone.

Democracy really does work at the local level... if we choose to participate.

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