Counties in Delaware

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Counties in the United States

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There are three counties in Delaware, the fewest of any state.[1] The origins of the county boundaries go back to former court districts.

Each county elects its own legislative body. In New Castle and Sussex, this is known as the County Council, and in Kent County it is known as the Levy Court. The counties are able to raise taxes and borrow money. They also have control over garbage disposal, water supply, sewerage, zoning, development and building codes.

The counties were historically divided into divisions called "hundreds," which were used as tax reporting and voting districts until the 1960s. However, the hundreds now serve no administrative role; their only current official legal use is in real-estate title descriptions.

Types of local government

Delaware has four types of local government: County, City, Town, and Village. State Law gives no authority for initiative or referendum of any kind to any of these local government units. Any authority for initiative and referendum comes from the local charter of a city or town.

  • There are three counties in Delaware: Kent County, New Castle County, and Sussex County. There is no provision for granting charters to counties in state law.
  • Municipalities all have charters granted by the State Assembly, but have little control over them. By Title 22, §802 of the Delaware State Statutes, cities and towns with a population of greater than 1,000 can amend their charters to grant Home rule powers, including initiative and referendum.
  • In addition, there are 259 special districts and 19 independent school districts.[2]

Initiative process availability

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Delaware

Counties do not have initiative or referendum powers. Municipalities that have a population greater than 1,000 people have the authority to amend their charters according to the State Statute cited below. Such cities and towns can amend their charters to reserve powers of initiative and referendum although not many have done so. Following is a list of the few that do have charters that mention initiative and referendum.[3]

  • Delaware City has authority and procedures in its charter for ordinance initiative and referendum. Signatures numbering 25% of last election's voters are required.
  • Newport has authority and procedures in its charter for ordinance initiative and referendum. Signatures numbering 50% of last election's voters are required.
  • Cheswold has authority and procedures in its charter for referendum.
  • Bethanybeach has provision in its charter for a voter signature initiative for an "opinion poll", but not for a binding ballot measure initiative.[4]

There are 51 other charter cities and towns in Delaware. The ones that have a population qualifying them to amend their charters include:

Arden, Ardencroft, Bellefonte, Elsmere, Middletown, New Castle, Nework, Odessa, Townsend, Wilmington, Bowers, Camden, Clayton, Dover, Felton, Frederica, Harrington, Houston, Kenton, Leipsic, Little Creek, Magnolia, Milford, Smyrna, Viola, Woodside, Wyoming, Bethal, Blades, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, and Delmar.

County website evaluations

See also: Evaluation of Delaware county websites

As of 2012:

  • All three counties put their budgets online.
  • All three include information on their websites about public government meetings.
  • Kent provides extensive information about the county's elected officials, New Castle and Sussex less so.
  • Each provides partial information about the county's administrative officials.
  • New Castle and Sussex give information about permits and zoning; Kent does not.
  • Kent and Sussex give no information about county audits; New Castle provides some information.
  • None of the counties provide information about contracts with vendors.
  • None of the counties discloses their membership (or lack thereof) in government sector lobbying associations.
  • Kent and Sussex provide no information on how to request public records using the Delaware Freedom of Information Act; New Castle provides some generally unclear information.
  • Kent gives no information on county taxes, New Castle gives partial information, and Sussex gives fairly comprehensive information.

List of counties

County County seat
Kent County Dover
New Castle County Wilmington
Sussex County Georgetown

External links

This article was taken and modified from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia under the GNU license.