Local Government Vocabulary

Ad valorem tax:
A property tax set according to the value of the property.

Annexation:
Extending a city’s boundaries by adding land from adjoining unincorporated territory.

Authority:
A special-purpose public corporation set up by government to provide a specific function or services, such as hospital care or public housing.

Budget:
A government’s annual financial plan. The budget is based on anticipated revenues and expenditures for a given year.

Charter:
Similar to a constitution; written and adopted by the citizens. It defines the city’s boundaries, form of government and powers.

Citizen:
A resident of a city, state or nation; a consumer of public services.

City:
See municipality. Although many people think a city is a large town, in Florida there is no legal difference between towns,villages and cities.

City attorney:
Represents city in legal matters and gives legal advice concerning city affairs.

City clerk:
Record keeper for the city. Keeps the official city seal, maintains city council minutes and other records.

City council:
The governing body of a city.

City hall:
A city’s main government building, usually including the offices for the mayor, the city council members, and a council meeting room.

City manager:
An official appointed by the city council to administer such city business as hiring, promotions, purchases and finances.

Code:
A set of ordinances arranged by subject matter.

Community:
May refer to any local area whose residents share common interests.

Consolidation:
A formal merging of two governments (such as a county and city) that must be approved by the voters of each government.

County:
A subdivision of the state set up to carry out certain state laws; it also functions as a general-purpose local government.

County seat:
The area designated by the legislature as the site of a county’s government. Florida League of Cities: An organization of Florida member cities dedicated to helping local governments become more innovative, effective and responsive.

Grant:
Money provided by the state or federal government for local governments projects. Grants are often designated for specific uses or projects.

Growth strategies:
Planning for future population growth, resource use and development.

Homestead exemption:
A reduction in property tax for the taxpayer who owns and lives on property being taxed.

Home rule:
A constitutional provision that allows municipal governments to exercise any power for municipal purposes except when it is expressly prohibited by state law. That is, as long as it is not specifically prohibited by state or federal law, municipal officials may pass any ordinance on behalf of the city.

Incorporate:
To officially bring a municipality into existence through the passage of an act in the state legislature and a referendum in the proposed municipality.

Incorporated area:
The land within a municipality. The boundaries are set by the city charter.

Infrastructure:
The physical framework or facilities of government, such as roads, bridges, buildings and sewer lines.

Intergovernmental:
The relationship between two or more governments or levels of government. Land-use plan:
A plan on how land can be used. The plan divides a city or county into zones and specifies the purposes for which land in each zone can be used.

License fee:
A fee required of a specific business in order to control the effects that the business might have on a community.

Local law:
A law passed by the state legislature to provide for a specific need in a named county or city.

Local option:
Allowing citizens of a county or city to vote on whether a particular law or practice will apply in their community.

Mayor:
An elected municipal official who may, depending upon the charter, have specific duties and responsibilities.

Municipality:
The legal name in Florida for a city, town or village.

Ordinance:
A law enacted by a city or county affecting local affairs such as traffic, noise and animal control.

Population density:
The number of people who live in a specific area, such as a square mile.

Privatization:
The use of a private business to deliver a government service.

Property tax:
A tax based on the value of real property (a house or land) on personal property (car or boat). Also known as ad valorem tax.

Revenue:
A government’s income from taxes, grants, fines, fees and licenses.

Rural:
Areas of the countryside with a low population density and not considered urban as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sanitary landfill:
The public facility where solid waste is buried under earth.

Suburban:
A heavily populated area near a large city, usually having residential areas and small businesses.

Tax:
Money that a government levies and collects from people or organizations within its jurisdiction. Taxes are used to pay for government services.

Tax digest:
The record showing the total taxable value of property in a city or county.

Town:
See municipality. Although many people think a town is a small city, in Florida there is no legal difference between towns, villages and cities.

Unincorporated area:
The area of the county not in any city. Area may be rural, agricultural or heavily populated and suburban in nature.

Urban:
Generally, refers to any city or developed community with a sizeable population. Urban can also refer to a densely settled area that is located next to a city.

Urbanized area:
Includes a central space and the densely settled urban fringe next to or around it.

User fee:
A charge made to persons for using a governmental service such as water.

Village:
See municipality. Although many people think a village is a small town, in Florida there is no legal difference between towns, villages and cities.

Zoning:
Dividing a community into zones for different types of uses, such as business, residential subdivisions and agriculture.