IOWA OFFICIAL REGISTER
For more information about municipal government
contact: Iowa League of Cities,
Municipal government in Iowa's 949 cities is as varied as the cities' populations. However, all city officials from Des Moines (population 193,189) to Delphos (population 23) must work to create policies, manage city monies, comply with legislative regulations and maintain adequate infrastructure no matter what the size of their community.
By definition in the Code of Iowa, chapter 362, a city is any municipal corporation other than a county, township, school district or special-purpose district. A municipal body must comply with the provisions outlined in the Code of Iowa, chapter 368 to incorporate as a city. Of the state's 949 cities, a total of 498 have a population of less than 500 according to 1990 census figures.
While most cities have a mayor-council form of government, there are a total of six forms of municipal government in Iowa: mayor-council or mayor-council with an appointed manager; council-manager-at-large; commission; council-manager-ward; home rule charter; and special charter. The essential differences among these forms are how the legislative and administrative responsibilities are separated.
The typical size of an Iowa city council is five members. In each of Iowa's cities, the city council serves as the policy-making body and is responsible for managing the city's annual budget. Basic sources of revenue for cities include: property taxes, state-shared revenue, local option taxes, service fees, license and permit fees and contracts from other local governments.
For more information about county government contact: Iowa State Association of Counties, 701 E. Court Ave., Des Moines 50309; 515/244-7181; FAX 515/244-6397 www.iowacounties.org
The origin of the American county is from the French word "conte," meaning the domain of a count; however, the American county, defined by Webster as "the largest territorial division for local government within a state of the U.S.," is based on the Anglo-Saxon county, sometimes called a shire. The head of the shire in the British Isles was the Shire Reeve, the origin for today's county sheriff.
Today, elected county officials in Iowa are the board of supervisors, recorder, treasurer, auditor, sheriff, and attorney. The board of supervisors is the chief administrative body of county government. It consists of either three or five members.
The functions and services of counties can be grouped into three categories: functions of state government which are administered by the county; services that are of a local nature; and internal administrative functions that the county performs for its own operation or on behalf of other local taxing jurisdictions.
County governments are required to provide a number of functions which are mandated by the state and which are administered much the same way in each county. These functions, and those who generally perform them, can be broadly categorized as follows:
election administration: auditor
social /human services: board of supervisors, director of community services
recording of documents and vital statistics: recorder
prosecution of state laws and county ordinances: attorney
licensing: treasurer and recorder
jail administration, law enforcement: sheriff
road maintenance: engineer
The local services provided by counties can be broadly categorized under the following headings: public works services, social/human services, health services, and law enforcement.
The internal administrative functions performed by counties are: property tax administration, finance, and miscellaneous management and record-keeping functions.
County government in Iowa has gone through many changes since Dubuque and Demoine were the only counties in the territory, but most of those changes have taken place quite recently. In the last 25 years, counties acquired home rule powers, county funds were consolidated, human service programs were reorganized, the court system was taken over by the state, and enabling legislation was enacted to provide for the option of county government reorganization. Iowa currently has 99 counties*.
*Information regarding the naming of each county can be found here.