6 Local Government Responsibilities

Picture representing local government responsibilities

Local governments prioritize protecting the lives, liberty, and property of residents and businesses.

The idea that a community or region should have some degree of autonomy and self-governance, has a long history dating back to ancient civilizations. In modern times, the establishment of local government responsibilities as we know them today varies by country and region. In the United States, for example, the founding fathers established a system of federalism, in which power is divided between the federal government and state governments, and state governments are further divided into smaller forms of government.

These establishments in the United States work to provide for the health, safety, and well-being of the community. They also work to promote economic development and improve the quality of life while fostering a sense of community and civic engagement. Addressing the needs of residents and businesses has long been a priority for leaders.

Types of local government

Before we get into the local government responsibilities, it’s important to understand there are several types that exist in the United States, including:


A county is a geographic and political division that’s typically larger than a city or town. Counties are responsible for a range of services and functions within their borders. These may include law enforcement, courts, road maintenance, and property assessment.


A municipality is incorporated, meaning it’s been granted a charter by the state and has the power to self-govern. Municipalities can be cities, towns, or villages, and typically have their own elected officials. These municipalities also provide services such as police and fire protection, trash collection, and waste management treatment.

School districts

A school district is an entity that’s responsible for public education within a specific geographic area. School districts are typically funded through a combination of local property taxes along with state and federal funding.

Special districts

Special districts are independent governmental units created to provide a specific service or function within a defined geographic area. Examples of special districts include water districts, fire districts, and park districts.

Tribal governments

Tribal governments are organized and operated by Native American tribes. They have the power to self-govern and provide a range of services and functions to members.

Read more about the different types of local governments here.

Local Government Responsibilities

Now that you understand the types of local governments, it’s time to understand some of their responsibilities and how they help you. These organizations play a variety of roles in the lives of residents. Some of the ways they help individuals include:

Providing essential services

Community leaders are responsible for providing a range of services that are essential to you and your neighbor’s daily lives. This includes things like garbage and recycling collection, road maintenance, and access to clean water and other utilities.

Protecting the community

Your local municipality works for the safety and well-being of its residents by providing law enforcement and fire protection services. They’ll also work to promote public health by regulating the quality of air, water, and food, and by managing the spread of diseases.

Planning and development

The local leaders in government play a crucial role in planning and development in and around the area. They may create land use plans, zoning regulations, and building codes to guide the growth and development of the community.

Supporting education

One of the most important local government responsibilities is to provide funding for public schools and support other education-related initiatives, such as libraries and adult education programs.

Promoting economic development

Your government should be working to attract new businesses and investment to the locality. This is necessary on top of supporting the growth and success of existing businesses. Performing these multi-layer development actions will help create jobs and stimulate economic growth in the community.

Providing recreational opportunities

Municipalities, counties, and special districts may operate and maintain parks, recreation centers, and other facilities that provide opportunities for residents to participate in sports, fitness activities, and other leisure pursuits.

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