Administrative divisions of Florida

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A map of Florida showing county names and boundaries

Local governments are established by the government of Florida and are given varying amounts of non-exclusive authority over their jurisdictions. The law governing the creation of these governments is contained both within the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes. Local governments are incorporated in Florida by special acts of the Florida Legislature. There are four types of local governments in Florida: counties, municipalities, school districts, and special districts.[1]

In some cases, the municipal and county governments have merged into a consolidated government. However, smaller municipal governments can be created inside of a consolidated municipality/county. In Jacksonville, the municipal government has taken over the responsibilities normally given to the county government, Duval County, and smaller municipalities exist within it.

Both counties and cities may have a legislative branch (commissions or councils) and executive branch (mayor or manager) and local police, but violations are brought before a county court. Counties and municipalities are authorized to pass laws (ordinances), levy taxes, and provide public services within their jurisdictions. All areas of Florida are located within a county, but only some areas have been incorporated into municipalities. All municipalities are located within a county and the county jurisdiction overlays the municipal jurisdiction. Usually, if there is a conflict between a county ordinance and a municipal ordinance, the municipal ordinance has precedence within the municipality's borders; however, the overlaying county's ordinances have precedence if the overlaying county has been designated a charter county by the Florida Legislature:)[1]

Counties and municipalities may create community development agencies which may take part of the money from taxes on increases in property values from their area of interest. They then use the money received in reinvestment (improvements) in the area.[2]

Local government is not required to pay for health care insurance for government retirees. As of 2010, none do.[3]

In 2011, researchers at Florida State University said that Florida's cities and counties have promised pensions they cannot afford. Pension obligations constituted 8% of total spending by local governments in 2009.[4]


Florida consists of 67 counties, with most of Florida's counties named for local or national political leaders. Some are named for Spanish explorers or conquistadors, marking the influence of 200 years of Spanish rule. Natural features of the region, including rivers, lakes, and flora, are also commonly used for county names. Florida has counties named for participants on both sides of Second Seminole War: Miami-Dade County is partially named for Francis L. Dade, a Major in the U.S. Army at the time; Osceola County is named for a Native American resistance leader during the war.

Each county has officers considered "state" officers, which are elected locally, their offices and salaries paid locally, but who can be removed or replaced by the governor, and not locally. These are the Sheriff, State Attorney, Public Defender, Tax Collector, County Clerk, a county Appraiser who established the value of real estate for tax purposes, and county judges.

Each sheriff operates under Florida Statute 30.15.[5]

By State Law there is one school district comprising each of the counties in Florida.[6]

To provide liquidity to counties when tax bills are not paid, Florida operates under the tax lien sale process, whereby liens are sold for the amount of back taxes, interest, and costs. In Florida, bidders bid on the rate of interest (beginning at 18%) they will accept; the bidder offering the lowest rate is awarded the tax lien certificate. Once a lien has been outstanding for approximately 22 months (technically, April 1 of the second year following the year when the tax lien was originally offered for sale),[7] the tax lien holder may petition the circuit court (via the county tax collector) to begin the process for the tax deed sale of the property.


Municipalities in Florida may be called towns, cities, or villages, but there is no legal distinction between the different terms. Municipalities often have police departments, fire departments, and provide essential services such as water, waste collection, etc. In unincorporated areas of a county, the county itself provides these services. Municipalities may also enter agreements with the county to have the county provide certain services. Each county has a sheriff who also tends to have concurrent jurisdiction with municipal police departments.[1][8]

School districts[edit]

There is one school district for each county; the Florida Constitution allows adjoining counties to merge their districts upon voter approval.[9] The superintendent is by default an elected official; however, the Florida Constitution allows county voters to make the position an appointed one.[10]

Special districts[edit]

Among special districts are "community development districts" which have virtually all the power of a city or county (except, notably, they do not have police power). Chapter 190 of the Florida Statutes governs these districts. Notable CDD's include the Reedy Creek Improvement District (the location of Walt Disney World) and substantially all of The Villages (the giant Central Florida retirement community).

Many counties have a "Soil and Water Conservation District," a residue of Dust Bowl politics. Elected officials are unpaid. Much of their budget is spent on engineering staff. Critics are trying to dismantle these districts, as being obsolete.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c Dye, T.R., Jewett, A. & MacManus, S.A. (2007) Politics in Florida. Tallahassee: John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government.
  2. ^ "Community Redevelopment Agency". Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
  3. ^ Edmondson, Raymond (16 February 2011). "Stop the fear mongering". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 9A.
  4. ^ "Fort Lauderdale: Study finds promised penions too costly". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. 11 February 2011. pp. 8B.
  5. ^ Judicial Process Unit. Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. 2011.
  6. ^ "School Nurses". Merritt Island, Florida: Space Coast Medicine and Healthy Living. March–April 2009. pp. 21–33.
  7. ^ Thus, a lienholder purchasing a lien at the sale in 2016 – sales are usually held in late May but cannot start later than June 1 – would have to wait until April 1, 2018, before taking action to foreclose.
  8. ^ Municipal codes and ordinances
  9. ^ Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine Florida Constitution, Article IX, Section 4
  10. ^ Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine Florida Constitution, Article IX, Section 5
  11. ^ White, Gary. "Unpaid officials rescue obscure agency from demise". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Hopefuls run to end funding for Dust Bowl-era conservation districts". The Tampa Tribune. 29 October 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2020-01-30.