Counties in Tennessee
Types of local government
Local government in Tennessee consists of:
- Counties: There are 92 counties in Tennessee. Two of these, Shelby and Knox counties, operate under home rule charters. Three counties (not included in the count) are classified as service districts--they are not considered independent governments under state law.
- Municipalities: There are 342 cities and towns in Tennessee. There are not significant legal differences between cities and towns.
- Metropolitan governments: There are 3 metropolitan governments in Tennessee. They are a form of city-county consolidation and exercise substantially all of the functions of both under state law. They are Nashville-Davidson, Lynchburg-Moore, and Hartsville-Trousdale.
- In addition, there are 469 special districts and 14 independent school districts.
Further municipal classification:
All municipalities are governed under a charter. However, there is significant difference in the degree of local autonomy depending on the type of charter.
- Home rule charter: 14 cities and towns operate under a home rule charter and exercise substantial local autonomy. They are Chattanooga, Clinton, East Ridge, Etowah, Johnson City, Knoxville, Lenoir City, Memphis, Mt. Juliet, Oak Ridge, Red Bank, Sevierville, Sweetwater and Whitwell.
- Private act charter: 212 cities and towns operate under a private act charter which was granted by the state General Assembly. While the charter is individualized to the city or town, the General Assembly and state statutes maintain more control over the municipality compared to home rule municipalities.
- General law: The remaining cities and towns are incorporated with a standardized charter set by state statutes. They may be incorporated under a Mayor-Aldermanic Charter (T.C.A., Title 6, Chapters 1-17); Uniform City Manager-Commission Charter (T.C.A., Title 6, Chapters 18-29); or Modified City Manager-Council Charter (T.C.A., Title 6, Chapters 30-36). A Metropolitan Government Charter (T.C.A., Title 7, Chapters 1-6) also falls in this category, but statutes authorize considerable freedom for metropolitan governments to individualize their charters.
Initiative process availability
The 2 home rule charter counties, Shelby and Knox, authorize initiative for charter amendments.
The 3 metropolitan governments, Nashville-Davidson, Lynchburg-Moore, and Hartsville-Trousdale, authorize initiative for charter amendments.
At least 7 cities have initiative for ordinances through their private act charter. These are Algood, Bristol, Cookville, Eagleville, Gatlinburg, Jackson, and Murfreesboro.
At least 2 cities have initiative for ordinances through their home rule charter. These are Chattanooga and Knoxville. As charter amendments may be proposed by ordinance, this process has been used for charter amendments as well.
County website evaluations
- See also: Evaluation of Tennessee county websites
- 21 Tennessee counties put their budgets on their websites.
- 23 counties included information on their websites about public government meetings.
- 51 included information about the county's elected officials.
- 56 included information about the county's administrative officials.
- 12 gave information about permits and zoning in the county.
- 16 of the counties put information on their websites about external audits.
- None of the counties provided information about their contracts with county vendors.
- None of the county websites disclosed whether the county belonged to any government sector lobbying associations.
- None of the counties provided information on how to request public records using the Tennessee Open Records Act.
- 16 county websites provided some information about county taxes.
List of counties
** Consolidated city/county government
- National Association of Counties Website "County Seats," accessed September 19, 2013
- The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, "Forming a Metropolitan Government," September 2003
- Municipal Technical Advisory Service, Getting to Know Your Municipal Charter
State of Tennessee
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