The U.S. Census Bureau has released preliminary counts of local governments.
In 2012, 89,004 local governments existed in the United States, down from 89,476 in the last census of governments conducted in 2007. Local governments included 3,031 counties (down from 3,033 in 2007), 19,522 municipalities (up from 19,492 in 2007), 16,364 townships (down from 16,519 in 2007), 37,203 special districts (down from 37,381 in 2007) and 12,884 independent school districts (down from 13,051 in 2007).
According to the 2012 Census of Governments:
• Illinois leads the nation with 6,968 local governments. Illinois also ranked first among the states in number of local governments in 2007 with 6,994.
• Hawaii has 21 local governments, the fewest of any state.
• Texas remains first in the nation with the most independent school districts at 1,079. Closely behind is California, with 1,025 independent school districts. Illinois has 905 independent school districts.
• Seventeen states had more special districts compared with 2007, and 29 had fewer. Five states (including the District of Columbia) had no change. Illinois has 3,232 special districts down from 3,249 in 2007.
Ten states had fewer townships because of mergers and consolidations. Kansas decreased the most, moving from 1,353 in 2007 to 1,268 in 2012, a decrease of 85. Illinois had 1,431 townships in 2012, down one from 2007.
Every five years since 1952, the Census Bureau has completed a comprehensive count of all local governments in the country. The most dramatic changes have been the decline in independent school districts and the notable increase in special districts. An interactive history of the counts of special districts and school districts from 1952 to 2012 can be accessed at http://www.census.gov/govs/go/
Special districts are organized local entities other than county, municipal, township or school district governments that are authorized by state law to provide only one or a limited number of designated functions. Fire districts, water districts, library districts and transit authorities are examples of special districts.
School districts are created to provide elementary, secondary and/or higher education services and have sufficient administrative and fiscal autonomy to qualify as independent governments. They exclude school systems that are "dependent" on a county, municipal, township or state government.
The preliminary counts for the first component of the 2012 Census of Governments can be found on the Census Bureau's Governments Division website at http://www.census.gov/govs/go/. Final counts will be issued in September 2013. For more information on the Government Units Survey, which produces these counts, go to http://www.census.gov/govs/cog2012/.
The employment component of the 2012 Census of Governments, which began in March of 2012, collects information on the number of state and local government civilian employees and their payrolls. In October, the finance component will collect information on revenues, expenditures, assets, debt and pensions.
For more information on the 2012 Census of Governments and statistics about governments, go to http://www.census.gov/govs/cog2012/.