Local Government Overview
The concept of local government is deeply rooted in our national heritage. Small communities were the beginnings of the United States and Local Governments play a crucial role in the process of democracy. A principal objective of a local government is to foster healthy political understanding through the promotion of community participation in decision making. There are three main types of local government- counties, municipalities (cities and town), and special districts.
Counties are the largest units of local government, numbering about 8,000 nationwide. Colorado is divided into 64 counties whose boundaries are established by the state. Generally, counties are responsible for law enforcement; the provision of social services on behalf of the state; the construction, maintenance, and repair of roads and bridges; and general control of land use in unincorporated areas.
Municipalities include statutory cities and towns, home rule municipalities and consolidated governments. There are about 19,000 in the United States and 272 in Colorado. Often called Town Councils or Board of Trustees, municipalities provide a broad range of services similar to that of a county.
The 33,000 special districts nationwide are local governments that provide services or infrastructure to promote the health, safety, prosperity, security, and general welfare of the inhabitants of the district. The Special District Act, in Title 32, C.R.S., comprises the legal framework for many different types of special districts and specifies the services that may be provided. According to DOLA, there are currently 2,306 Title 32 special districts in Colorado as of November 2018, though the number regularly fluctuates as districts are created and dissolve