The Florida Constitution recognizes municipalities as incorporated cities, towns and villages. These optional municipal governments, once created, are citizen-governed and the services are determined by, and delivered through, the municipal government.
A city can be small, medium-sized or large, and can offer a vast number of services or very few services—depending upon the wishes of the citizens. The elected governing body of a city is the council, or commission, and this body sets the policies for the city.
A city is NOT the county government, or the school district or a special taxing district. Cities in Florida are general-purpose local governments, and enjoy the benefit of Home Rule Powers, which is a section of the Constitution that recognizes the ability of city residents to self-govern through ordinances (laws) without county, state or federal involvement. A city’s structure and type of government are set forth in its charter.
Cities are located within counties, and there is often confusion about which government provides a certain service. Residents of a city will always be residents of the county, and will pay county, school district and certain special district taxes and fees. In Florida, choosing to live in a city is just that—a choice—one that is often driven by “quality of life” concerns or wishes for services that cannot otherwise be provided effectively and/or efficiently by their county government.
How is a city government funded? It truly varies. Cities have authority to levy the property tax, utility tax and business license tax, and cities share in some state-levied (sales tax) and county-levied taxes (gasoline). Cities charge fees for other services (like water, sewer and solid waste collection), and fees can often comprise more than half a city’s revenues. Qualified cities also share in state revenue sharing, which is collected by the state and divided among the eligible municipal governments. No two cities in Florida have identical revenue structures, although similarities can be found.
How do city governments choose which services to provide? Listening to citizens, comparing other service options, and researching costs and funding sources are usually the steps. Each city weighs its requests with its resources, and tries to determine the best course of action for its citizenry. As the level of representative democracy closest to the people, the services of a city can often be experienced first-hand by city residents. National and state surveys show the highest citizen confidence ratings in municipal government when compared to other levels of government. Being a citizen includes responsibility and an obligation to be involved in the city’s governance. In addition to voting, many citizens find advisory committees or boards a valuable way to get involved.
Prepared by the Florida League of Cities, Inc. to assist public understanding of cities.
For more information, please call (407)367-4025 or visit www.floridaleagueofcities.com