Local governments should be accountable, responsive, flexible, efficient, effective, able to raise sufficient revenues to perform their duties, and have adequate constitutional and statutory powers to cope effectively

POSITION: (Revised 1986)

Support of measures to improve the coordination, effectiveness, efficiency, and economical operation of local government units.

Counties and Municipalities:

  • Alternative forms of local government on a permissive statewide basis should be allowed, and preference should be given to structural county home rule with additional statutory powers, combined city and county governments, and to federations.
  • Less populous counties should be permitted to consolidate and all counties should be permitted to modify their structure to achieve a more centralized and efficient extension of state government. Such changes should be efficiently limited to protect the interest of municipalities.
  • Proposed municipal incorporation should consider the welfare of the entire area, financial responsibility, and prior existence of a unit of government capable of providing services. The welfare of the entire area should be a prime consideration in annexations and the people affected should have a voice in the decision.

Metropolitan and Urban Areas:

  • A form of metropolitan governance should be considered as a means of resolving governmental problems which transcend municipal and county boundaries. Such a form should: reduce duplications and fragmentation of local government so that whenever possible efficiency and economy will result; provide solutions to governmental problems which are equitable, effective and which enhance the environment; be sufficiently flexible to respond to changes in governmental and citizen needs; develop a sense of regional or metropolitan community without destroying a sense of local community; and encourage citizen participation at both regional and local levels.
  • A variety of flexible, permissive solutions and standards to deal with the problems in the metropolitan and urban areas of the state should be employed; however, all school districts should operate under the same law regarding boundaries. (The Denver School District boundaries are the same as those of the City and County of Denver as required in Article XX of the Colorado Constitution. Elsewhere in the state, school district boundaries are determined by guidelines set forth in state statutes and do not have to conform to city or county lines.)
  • Home rule cities should be permitted to join other governmental units to provide metropolitan services.
  • Metropolitan planning and/or an adaptation of a state planning department is essential to deal with problems unique in metropolitan areas.

Service Authorities:

The following services should be included in state legislation pertaining to service authorities:

  • 1st priority: water, sewage, solid waste disposal, storm drainage;
  • 2nd priority: mass transportation, land use planning, parks and recreation, libraries, housing;
  • Preferred at state level: air and water pollution control.
  • Not recommended: police and fire protection.
  • Cooperation on the regional level is encouraged.

Special Districts:

  • Special districts should be more difficult to form and should be consolidated, dissolved, and/or multi- purpose in nature whenever possible.
  • The financial accountability of special districts should be improved and mill levies limited.
  • Services should be provided by existing units of government whenever possible.
  • Guidance and supervision from a central agency is desirable.


From 1959 to 1963 LWVCO studied local governmental units because counties, municipalities, school districts and special districts did not seem to have adequate constitutional and statutory powers to cope effectively with providing services and exercising controls.

A coalition, including LWVCO, drew up a local government amendment which, after much compromise, was passed by the General Assembly and approved by the voters in November, 1970. It provided for county home rule with only those powers granted by the legislature, home rule for municipalities of any size, and regional service authorities.

Implementing legislation was passed in 1971 to permit counties to adopt structural home rule, and in 1972 to permit the formation of regional service authorities with planning powers, if approved by a majority of voters in two or more counties.

In 1975 legislation supported by League was passed to clarify the procedure for increasing from three to five the membership of the board of county commissioners in counties of over 70,000 population.

In l985-86 LWVCO did an update of Local Government positions which included a review of special districts and an analysis of problems encountered by local governments who have been the targets of franchisers, developers and other private parties by suits claiming violation of anti-trust laws by these governments.

In 1988 LWVCO supported a successful statutory amendment establishing a sales tax for a Scientific and Cultural Facilities District that includes the metropolitan counties of Boulder, Denver, Jefferson and parts of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas.

In 1990 LWVCO worked with the Colorado Press Association on a failed petition drive for a Sunshine (Open Meetings) Amendment to cover local governments. However, a successful effort was mounted in the 1991 session of the General Assembly to extend the state Sunshine Law to city councils, county commissions, school boards and special districts.

In 2015 a long-overdue raise in compensation for state and county elected officials was passed. The last time these salaries were raised was in 1998 and there has been 44% inflation since then. League supported this measure because good government demands good people who are representative of the whole population.