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Local governments are institutional units whose fiscal, legislative, and executive authority extends over the smallest geographical areas distinguished for administrative and political purposes.
See the fact file below for more information on the local government or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Local Government worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The institutionalization of local government entities are provided in each state’s constitution, which includes counties and cities, but most states also provide for other types of local government including wards, school districts, conservation districts, townships, and transportation authorities.
- There are over 500,000 elected officials in the United States, with less than 8,500 holding positions at the national and state levels. The rest are local government officials like city council members, school board members, mayors, sheriffs, and a variety of individuals who serve in different capacities.
Structure of Local Governments
- County Government
- Counties are the basic territorial division within a state and range from less than 100 square kilometers to over 200,000 square kilometers in size. In 48 states, counties are also considered the principal governing body under the state government. Counties in Connecticut and Rhode Island do not have governmental functions.
- County governments are mainly responsible for recordkeeping (births, deaths, land transfers, etc.), the conduct of elections (including voter registration), construction and maintenance of local and rural infrastructure, zoning, building code enforcement, and law enforcement.
- Some counties also share authority with the state government for allocating social benefits for its low-income residents, monitoring and enforcing environmental regulations and building codes, overseeing child welfare, and performing judicial functions.
- In some states, counties are the geographic units for public school districts, but schools usually have a separate administrative structure.
- Counties are led by popularly elected officials. Generally, a board of supervisors or a county commission enacts policies and often exercises executive functions.
- Other elected county positions may include sheriff, judge, justice of the peace, medical examiner, comptroller, assessor, and prosecutor, among others. In addition, many counties have a professional administrator, who is hired to manage the county government’s overall operations.
- Municipal Government
- Municipalities are incorporated cities, towns, or villages within or independent of a county having their own governing and taxing authority. They range in size from small towns with fewer than 100 residents to large metropolises spanning several counties (such as New York City).
- Its responsibilities surround public safety, maintenance of city streets, parks and recreation, zoning and building code enforcement, fire and rescue services, animal control, public transportation, and other essential services.
- Larger cities may also grant its citizens housing assistance, operate public hospitals, and administer social welfare programs funded by the city, the state, or the federal government.
- Many cities also own or regulate public utilities such as water, electric power, natural gas, and telecommunications.
- Like counties, cities and towns are run by elected officials such as the mayor and city council who make decisions and lay out policies.
- The mayor, who may or may not have a seat on the council, is the head of the municipal government and is responsible for overseeing day-to-day administrative functions.
- Some cities have adopted the city manager form of government, where the city council hires a professional manager to run the operations of the city.
- A city manager serves as the chief administrative officer and, though not elected, reports directly to the elected city council or mayor.
- Special District Governments
- Special district governments operate autonomously of other local governments and are usually established to serve a specific purpose within a specific geographic region. Some of these deal with water and natural resource conservation, fire prevention, water supply, emergency services, and transportation.
- Leaders of these specialized government entities may be elected or appointed. Powers of special district governments vary widely, but many have significant regulatory and taxing authority.
- Their activities are commonly funded by a special sales tax or property tax collected within their area of jurisdiction, or by fees charged to users of their services.
- According to the 2012 Census of Governments (see Figure 1 below), special districts are the most common type of local government in the United States by a large margin, with the fire protection being the most common single type of special district. By category, the most common type of special district deals in environment and housing.
Local Government Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about local government across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Local Government worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the local governments which are institutional units whose fiscal, legislative, and executive authority extends over the smallest geographical areas distinguished for administrative and political purposes.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Basics
- What Does a Mayor Do?
- Speak Up!
- People Power
- Lights, Camera, Politics
- Local Emblem
- Rich Town, Poor Town
- Survey Says
- Dear Mayor
Link/cite this page
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Link will appear as Local Government Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 5, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.