Counties in Colorado
- 1 Types of local government
- 2 Initiative process availability
- 3 County website evaluations
- 4 List of counties
- 5 County governance
- 6 External links
- 7 References
There are 64 counties in Colorado.. The counties of Colorado are important components of government since the state has no secondary civil subdivisions such as townships. Two counties, the City and County of Denver and the City and County of Broomfield, have consolidated city and county governments.
Types of local government
The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments showed that, as of September of 2012, local government in Colorado consisted of:
333 General Purpose units, including:
- 62 Counties
- 271 Cities and towns (including the consolidated city-counties of Denver and Broomfield)
2,485 Special Purpose units, including:
- 2,305 Special Districts
- 180 Independent School Districts
Counties may be:
Cities and towns may be:
- General law: of which there are 172
- Home rule charter (if over 2,000 in population): of which there are 96
- Consolidated City and County: 2 (Denver and Broomfield)
- There is also 1 remaining territorial charter municipality (Georgetown)
Initiative process availability
An initiative process is available in all cities and towns. In charter cities, initiative is also available for charter amendments.
In charter counties (Weld and Pitkin) initiative is available for county measures and charter amendments.
Citizens in general law counties do not have broad initiative authority to propose county measures. However, specific state statutes grant a petition process for limited subject matters. For example:
- Recall of county elected officials, C.R.S. §1-12-103 & 104; Formation of a home rule charter committee, C.R.S. §30-11-502(1) et seq.; Increasing the number of county commissioners from three to five (in counties having a population greater than 70,000), C.R.S. §30-10-306.5(3)(a); Decreasing the number of county commissioners from five to three (in counties having a population greater than 70,000), C.R.S. §30-10-306.7 (2)(b); Enacting a countywide sales tax ordinance, C.R.S. §29-2-104; Establishment of a county library, C.R.S. §24-90-107(1),(3); Establishment of public improvement district (PID) or a local improvement district (LID), C.R.S. §30-20-501 et seq. and C.R.S. §30-20-601 et seq., respectively; Establishment of various districts, C.R.S. §30-20-801 et seq.
County website evaluations
- See also: Evaluation of Colorado county websites
As of February 2009:
- 36 counties post the county budget online.
- 31 counties include information on their websites about public government meetings.
- 47 include information about the county's elected officials.
- 32 include information about the county's administrative officials.
- 39 counties give information about permits and zoning in the county.
- 16 of the counties put information on their websites about audits that the county government has had performed.
- 2 counties give information about their contracts with county vendors.
- None of the county websites disclose whether or not they belong to any government sector lobbying association.
- 20 counties provide information on how to request public records using the Colorado Open Records Act.
- 14 county websites provide some information about county taxes.
- Evaluation of ballot measure information on Colorado county websites as of March 2012.
List of counties
The basic organizational structure of all Colorado counties is the same, except for the home rule counties and the City and County of Denver, Pitkin County and Weld County.
- Denver is organized under a charter defined in Article XX of the Colorado Constitution.
- Pitkin and Weld are organized pursuant to article XIV, section 16, of the Colorado Constitution and C.R.S. 30-11-501, which allow voters of a county to adopt a home rule charter establishing the organization and structure of county government, and C.R.S 30-35-101, which implements constitutional provisions regarding home rule.
Home rule counties are required to provide all mandatory programs, services and facilities required by state law. A home rule county is permitted to provide such "permissive" programs, services and facilities as may be authorized by state law. In this sense, home rule counties enjoy no more prerogatives than statutory counties.
Article XIV of the Colorado Constitution defines the organization and structure of the non-home rule counties in Colorado.
Board of Commissioners
The Boards of County Commissioners in the counties serve as administrative and policy-making bodies for their counties. Boards have only those powers specifically conferred by the state General Assembly, although courts have held that they have such implied powers as may be necessary to carry out their specified powers.
- The board sits as the county board of equalization.
- The board fills all vacancies in county offices other than those for county commissioner and for public trustee.
Colorado Counties, Inc., a government sector lobbying association, defines five districts in the state "so that county commissioners in the same geographic region can meet periodically to discuss issues of common concern pertinent to their diverse region of Colorado."
The county assessor is responsible for valuing real and personal property in the county in such a way as to assure statewide equalization in the valuation of real and personal property. The assessor determines the equitable value of property to ensure that each taxpayer pays only his or her fair share of the taxes while maintaining the principle of local control and providing information to the public.
The assessor is required to send out a notice of valuation each year to property owners. This notice is required to reflect a value on property for ad valorem taxes payable to the county.
Clerk and recorder
The county clerk and recorder is required to be the recorder of deeds and the clerk to the board of county commissioners. The clerk and recorder is the primary administrative officer of most counties. The clerk and recorder is responsible for carrying out certain state functions.
- The clerk is the agent of the state Department of Revenue and, among other duties, is charged with the responsibility of administering state laws relating to motor vehicles, certification of automobile titles and motor vehicle registration.
- The clerk is responsible for administering all primary, general and special elections held in the county, and for registration of voters, publication of notice of elections, appointment of election judges and printing and distribution of ballots.
- The clerk and recorder issues marriage licenses, maintains records and books for the board of commissioners, collects license fees and charges required by the state, maintains property records and furnishes deed abstracts upon request.
The county treasurer is responsible for the receipt, custody and disbursement of county funds. The treasurer is the public trustee, except in first and second class counties. The treasurer collects some state taxes and all property taxes, including those for other units of local government. The treasurer collects and disburses school funds belonging to school districts located within the county. The treasurer sends notices of and collects all property taxes for all local governments and disburses receipts for each after charging a statutory collection fee. The treasurer conducts sales of property for delinquent taxes.
The county sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of the county, and is responsible for maintaining the peace and enforcing state criminal laws. The sheriff must attend court and is required to serve and execute processes, subpoenas, writs and orders as directed by the court. The sheriff operates the county jail, and must maintain and feed prisoners. The sheriff is also the fire warden for prairie or forest fires in the county. Finally, the sheriff performs certain functions in connection with sales of real and personal property to satisfy debt or tax liens.
A coroner is elected for the term of four years. Candidates for the position are encouraged by the General Assembly to possess knowledge and experience in the medical-legal investigation of death. The coroner may declare an individual dead if he finds the individual has sustained irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory function.
The surveyor's duties are:
- Settle boundary disputes when directed by a court or when requested by interested parties.
- Create survey markers and monuments.
- Conduct surveys relating to toll roads and reservoirs.
The Colorado Constitution states that the county attorney may be elected or appointed. Statutes state that the county attorney shall be appointed. The county attorney advises other county officers on all legal matters and is required to represent the state in certain types of juvenile and mental health proceedings.
- Colorado County Evolution by Don Stanwyck
- Colorado Historical Society
- Colorado Counties Online
- Local governments in Colorado
- U.S. Census quick facts for Colorado counties