Contract city is a term used in the United States for a city whose municipal services are provided via a contract arrangement with another unit of government, a public agency, or private or commercial organizations.
In the traditional method, franchising, a private company has a franchise, or legal right, to perform certain public services normally done by municipal government. Cities of all kinds have entered into contracts for non-core governmental services, such as facilities and grounds maintenance, auditing, legal counsel, road construction, garbage collection, water and waste water treatment, engineering services, and others. Such cities rely on the private sector to provide public service delivery, while the public sector maintains oversight. Public officials are specifically responsible for writing, signing, managing and enforcing contracts.
Another method of contracting is for the city to contract with its county government or with neighboring cities to provide municipal services such as police and public safety, libraries, or parks and recreation.
In contrast, independent cities are cities which provide basic governmental services themselves, without contracting (this usage is not to be confused with the more common usage of independent city as a city that is not part of any county). Most older cities are independent cities. In practice, many cities are hybrids of both. For instance, they may directly operate parks programs, but contract with the county for police and fire services. Most contract cities do their own land use planning, since cities were incorporated to exert local control over land use.
In 1954, Lakewood, California became the first city to contract with its county for public services. The previously unincorporated area was facing a hostile annexation from adjacent Long Beach, California, and residents favored retaining local control while maintaining the existing services provided by Los Angeles County. The so-called Lakewood Plan has been the model for most new contract cities incorporated since then.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of contract cities. Several that have received attention from the media include:
- Contract City history
- California Contract Cities Association
- Independent Cities Association
- Reason Foundation, Local Government
- "Welcome to contract law enforcement". Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Retrieved 28 December 2012.