A Samtgemeinde (see remark) is an administrative division in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is equivalent with the Amt (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg), and the Verbandsgemeinde (Rhineland-Palatinate). It is an association of municipalities, which executes administrative duties for its member municipalities. A Samtgemeinde should have at least 7,000 inhabitants (§71 paragraph 1 Lower Saxony law on local government). The tasks of the Samtgemeinden may be land use planning, wastewater disposal, social security or the organisation of cemeteries and fire stations. It also takes over the sponsorship of elementary schools, the construction of local connecting roads, equipment and entertainment of libraries, sports sites and establishment of other public equipment and can take over other tasks of the member municipalities, for instance, tourism. A large part (approx. 80%) of the municipalities of Lower Saxony has united to Samtgemeinden.
Samtgemeinde (plural: Samtgemeinden) is an artificially created word consisting of the adjective gesamt (en: whole, entire, all, complete, total, aggregate, collective, overall, general, joint, united) or zusammen (en: together, jointly) and the noun Gemeinde (en: municipality). Because one to one translation is hardly possible, the translation Joint or collective municipal association might sound best.
Samtgemeinden have three organs:
- the Samtgemeinde mayor (German: Samtgemeindebürgermeister), elected directly every eight years
- the Samtgemeinde council, (German: Samtgemeinderat) elected every five years
- the Samtgemeinde committee (German: Samtgemeindeausschuss).
The Samtgemeinde committee consists of the Samtgemeinde mayor (the chairman of the committee), and according to size of the council from four to ten assistants and the council can decide a rise by two (§56 paragraph 2 local government law). These positions are distributed among the factions and groups in the council according to the largest remainder method.
There were also Sammtgemeinden (at that time written with double m) in Prussia between 1850 and 1853.