Division of U.S. Local Governments | Social Studies

September 4, 2015 thetasctest

In a recent, we discussed the relationship between our state and local governments. Let’s take a closer look at how local U.S. governments are divided for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Social Studies subtest.


Every state is divided into counties. For example, the image below shows Ohio’s 88 counties:

Photo credit: World Atlas

Each state varies in how their county governments are structured, but their responsibilities are similar. Most counties are governed by either:

  • County Commissioners
  • Board of Supervisors
  • The County Court System

These governing bodies are led by elected officials responsible for:

  • Local tax levies
  • Administering county-wide services such as county prisons, courts, health departments, and building code laws
  • Maintaining county public works such as road maintenance


Municipalities are established within a defined area of a county. Municipalities differ from state to state by:

  • Quantity. For example, the District of Columbia only has one municipality, while Illinois has 1,299.
  • Name. For example, some cities call their municipalities’ boroughs, districts, or villages.
  • Requirements. For example, Florida requires 1.5 persons per acre to form a municipality.

Municipal responsibilities include:

  • Managing the police, fire, and recreational departments.
  • Organizing public transportation.
  • Regulating zoning laws.
  • Maintaining city electric, sewer, and street signage.


Township governments are similar to municipalities in responsibility and area of authority (defined within a county). Unlike municipalities, no minimum population is required for a township government to be established. Typically, townships are governed by an elected board of trustees and rely almost entirely on property taxes for revenue.

Interested in learning more about your local government? StateLocalGov.net provides an in-depth directory of every U.S. state and local government. 

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