Minnesota's many hundreds of townships — those municipalities that are mostly rural and far smaller than most cities — as a whole trimmed their operating expenses last year while continuing a pattern of increasing revenue.
Those are among the findings released Thursday by the State Auditor's Office, whose annual report on revenue, expenses and debt covered 1,656 of Minnesota's 1,781 towns that submitted financial data.
Townships in Minnesota total more than 914,000 residents, or roughly one in six Minnesotans, according to the latest state demographic data. That's about 5,200 more than a year ago but down more than 5,100 from 2013.
Townships outnumber cities in Minnesota by more than 2 to 1. They range in size from five residents in Hangaard in northwestern Minnesota to the east metro's White Bear Township, with almost 11,000. More than half, however, have populations of 300 or fewer.
Among the state auditor's findings for all townships combined in 2017:
• Total revenue of $325.3 million, up 2.6 percent from last year.
• Total expenses of $306.4 million, down 1.4 percent from last year.
• Outstanding debt of $56 million, down 2.4 percent from last year.
• Principal and interest on outstanding debt, $13.3 million, up 18.5 percent from 2016.
The auditor's report also looked at 10-year trends (2008-17), adjusted for inflation, for townships as a whole and found that revenue has increased by 9.8 percent, while expenses have risen by 3.8 percent.
Minnesota townships are generally 36 square miles and are the primary local government units for unincorporated areas.