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It affects us daily. We criticize it. We take it for granted. Teens may not even know what it is, yet it offers them many career opportunities. It’s county government. Why does it exist, and what are its roles and responsibilities? How does it make a difference in our lives?
The Florida Constitution provides the framework for county governments, and certain things are provided for through the constitution. Collier is one of sixty-seven Florida counties which receives its power from the state. The Florida constitution provides for three types of local government–non-charter, charter, and municipalities. Collier County’s municipalities (ie. Incorporated cities) include Naples, Marco Island, and Everglades City. The county provides services for all unincorporated areas and some services (eg. Libraries) for municipalities. Our county has a non-charter form of government, and its actions must be in compliance with state policies.
Counties are funded through property taxes, local sales taxes, motor fuel taxes, and licenses, fines, fees, and state-shared revenue. The money is spent on public safety, capital improvements, health and social services, transportation, and judicial services, including the costs of facilities and personnel to make all of this happen.
The state constitution mandates that a county seat be specified. Our county seat was Everglades City until Hurricane Donna came through. Now it’s in East Naples, with most government offices located at the campus at Airport Rd. and Tamiami Trail East. As the county is growing, satellite offices have been established in various parts of the county to accommodate citizens. The newest center is on Orange Blossom Drive, just west of the library headquarters. Most of the sessions take place at the East Naples government center.
The state constitution says that counties will have certain elected officials. These include the Supervisor of Elections, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and the Sheriff. Thus, these are called “constitutional officers.” Their specific functions are written into the state constitution, and they are elected through county-wide elections.
In addition, Collier County citizens elect a five member Board of County Commissioners and commissioners for independent taxing districts, each with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. One of the most important functions of the Board is to adopt a county budget and set millage rates so that county business is funded adequately.
The County Manager is an appointed official, hired by the Board to manage or oversee its operations and to be sure it is fulfilling its responsibilities. A County Attorney is also hired by the Board to provide legal advice and, with his staff, perform legal work as needed. There is also a Deputy County Manager and assistants to the Manager.
The five commissioners represent five delineated districts and are elected by voters in their district for four year staggered terms. Each commissioner must live in the district he/she represents. Their offices and their meeting room are on the third floor of the Administration Building at the courthouse complex at the corner of Airport Road and Tamiami Trail East. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, beginning at 9am. (the schedule may change during the summer.) You can attend meetings in person or watch them live on government access cable channels. Agendas are printed in the Naples Daily News prior to the meeting.
Citizenship education is an important tool for keeping our democracy strong.