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Local government in New York State comprises counties, cities, towns and villages, which are corporate entities known as municipal corporations. These units of local government provide most local government services although special purpose governmental units also furnish some basic services, such as sewer and water services. School districts, although defined as municipal corporations, are single-purpose units concerned basically with education in the primary and secondary grades. Fire districts, also considered local governments in New York State, are single-purpose units that provide fire protection in areas of towns. Fire districts are classified as district corporations. There are other governmental entities which have attributes of local governments but which are not local governments. These miscellaneous units or entities are generally special-purpose or administrative units normally providing a single service for a specific geographic area.

New Yorkers have always regarded government in a very practical way. Conceiving of governments as instruments to carry out duties and functions to meet specific needs, they created local governments to carry out specific activities. The Constitution, the statutes and the charters of the cities, a few villages and some counties, spell out these duties and functions.

The people of the State of New York has preserved their right to call a vote on peition to change or direct their local government in certain regards.

By clicking on the links below you will find the respective initiative(s) that citizens can take to initiate change by petition and referendum in New York for:

  • Town Government
  • Village Government