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Allegany County Government Quick Facts

Allegany County was formed in 1789 from Washington County, Maryland (Chapter 29, Acts of 1789). Allegany comes from the Indian word, oolikhanna, meaning "beautiful stream."

Population:  75,087

County Seat: Cumberland

Chief Elected Officials:

Allegany County has a three member Board of County Commissioners. The members are elected at large and serve a four-year term. There are not any term limits. One of the three serves as the President for the term as determined by a vote of the Board of County Commissioners.

Form of Government: Code Home Rule

[Allegany County Seal]

Forms of Local Government in Maryland

The 23 counties (and Baltimore City) operate in one of three ways: as a commissioner, charter, or code county. Commissioner counties do not have constitutional home rule power (i.e., they may not legislate on local matters without the prior specific consent of the General Assembly).  Nine counties operate under this form of government. Nine entities operate with a charter as provided for under Article XI-A of the Constitution of Maryland. In these, the voters have approved a formal charter outlining the structure of the county government. In six of the eight charter counties, executive and legislative powers have been divided between an elected executive and an elected council. In two of the charter counties, an elected council that appoints an administrator/manager has retained executive and legislative powers. The remaining six counties operate as code counties (i.e., the county voters have approved home-rule power for the commissioners) under Article XI-F of the Constitution of Maryland.


Commissioner Counties:
St. Mary's


Charter Counties:
Anne Arundel
Baltimore City
Baltimore County
Prince George's


Code Counties:
Queen Anne's



Commissioner Counties
County commissioners were first authorized in 1827. As derivatives of the old levy courts, commissioners originally were ministerial officers responsible for county finances and roads. Since 1867 their powers have been broadened by legislative enactments. Commissioners do not have constitutional home-rule powers (i.e., they cannot legislate in areas where the General Assembly has not given them authority; and in those areas where they do have authority it is narrowly construed.
The General Assembly has enacted a substantial amount of law pertaining to the powers of the county commissioners. Article 25 of the Annotated Code of Maryland is wholly devoted to the commissioners, and numerous other articles and the local code of each county also contain such law. In those areas where the General Assembly has given the county commissioners authority they may enact resolutions and ordinances, but as mentioned they are narrowly construed.

Below is a general list of some of the enumerated powers of the county commissioners. The items in the list can pertain to all the commissioner counties, or to all except those counties specifically excepted, or to those counties specified. It is in this manner that the General Assembly exercises substantial control over the commissioner counties.


Enumerated Powers of Commissioner Counties
(Article 25, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 3)


(a) Excepted counties
(b) Repealed
(c) Franchises
(d) Appointment and removal of county officers and employees: special provisions as to *Charles County (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(e) Compensation of officers and employees
(f) Merit System; special provisions as to Dorchester, Somerset, Queen Anne's, and Garrett counties
(g) Pensions, retirement and group insurance; Kent, Dorchester, and *Charles counties (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(g-1) Pension plan for *Charles County Sheriff's Department (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(g-2) Pension plan for Kent County Sheriff's Department
(g-3) Pension plans for certain employees in St. Mary's County
(g-4) Group health and hospital insurance benefits and pension and retirement benefits for Garrett County officers and employees
(g-5) Joint pooling agreements for casualty, property, or health insurance
(h) Collection of taxes
(i) Trailers and tourists camps
(j) Printing and publishing; audit of accounts of officers
(k) Proof of claims against county
(l) Competitive bidding and bonds; special provisions as to *Charles and Somerset counties (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(l-1) Lease purchase agreements in Somerset County
(m) Recoding and indexing records
(n) Nuisances; health measures; Dorchester County
(o) Grading, paving and repairing of roads and sidewalks; county roads engineer; *Charles County excepted; private roads in Somerset and Talbot counties (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(p) Compensation for boarding and keeping prisoners
(q) County police; *Charles and Wicomico counties excepted(*Now Code Home Rule County)
(r) Hearing on proposed ordinances or resolutions; special provisions as to certain counties
(s) Plumbing and zoning permits, and plumbing, building and housing codes in certain counties
(s-1) Conditioning acceptance of land development for residential purposes
(t) Building and electrical codes; Calvert, Caroline, *Charles, Dorchester, Somerset, & Washington counties (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(t-1) Plumbing code
(t-2) Licensing of on-site utility contractors and septic system installers in Washington County: fees; bonds
(u) Parks and recreation; *Charles County (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(v) Refuse collection and disposal; Dorchester, Somerset, and Garrett Counties


(w) Volunteer fire departments; special provisions as to Dorchester County
(x) Community services; Worcester County
(x-1) Appropriation in Worcester County for Convention Hall in Ocean City
(x-2) Appropriations for community and social services in Worcester County
(y) Cooperative activities; acceptance of federal or state funds; Dorchester and Worcester counties
(z) Departments and offices
(aa) Licenses; Dorchester County; Carroll County
(bb) Fund for waterway improvement projects in *Charles County (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(cc) Appropriations to incorporated municipalities in Dorchester County
(dd) Federally assisted watershed projects
(ee) Regulation of retail sale of alcoholic beverages in Talbot County
(ff) Funds for special investigations in Caroline County
(gg) Guarantee of loans to volunteer fire departments in certain counties
(hh) Regulation of consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property in *Charles & St. Mary's Counties (*Now Code Home Rule County)
(ii) Animal control ordinances in Queen Anne's County
(jj) Regulation of smoking in public buildings in Frederick County
(kk) Commercial or industrial redevelopment projects
(ll) Bad check fee in Washington County
(mm) Conflict of interests
(nn) Weather modification; Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties
(oo) Commercial district management authority
(pp) Pension plan for Calvert County Sheriff's Department
(qq) Designation of emergency snow route in Garrett County


Charter Counties
In 1915 the voters approved Article XI-A of the Constitution of Maryland. This section of the constitution provides for charter home rule, and is supplemented by Article 25A, and other articles, of the Annotated Code of Maryland. A county becomes a charter county when a charter board drafts a charter, which is then approved by the voters.

Article XI-A provides that: the General Assembly shall, by public general law, grant "express powers" to charter counties; the charter counties shall have elected legislative bodies in which law making powers shall be vested; and the General Assembly may not enact laws for a single charter county in a subject matter contained in the "express powers."


Express Powers of Charter Counties
(Article 25A, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 5)

(a) Local Legislation
(b) County Property and Franchises
(c) County Institutions
(d) Advertising and Printing
(e) Audits and Claims
(f) Contracts and Bonds; Purchasing through Purchasing Bureau
(g) Drainage
(h) Election Districts and Precincts
(i) Court Records
(j) Health and Nuisances
(k) Highways, Bridges and Streets
(1) Livestock
(m) Fish and Game
(n) Fences
(o) Assessments, Levy and Collection of Taxes
(p) Bonds or Evidences of Indebtedness
(q) County Officers
(r) Protection of County Credit
(s) Amendment of County Charter
(t) Road, Waste Disposal, Soil Erosion and Building Ordinances
(u) County Board of Appeals
(v) Recreation
(w) Storm Drainage
(x) Planning and Zoning
(y) County Board of Health
(z) Federally Assisted Watershed Projects
(aa) Commission to Establish Compensation for County Councils
(bb) Historic and Landmark Zoning and Preservation
(cc) Waiver of Sovereign Immunity
(dd) Commercial or Industrial Redevelopment Projects
(ee) Conditioning Acceptance of Certain Land Development
(ff) Commercial District Management Authority


Code Counties
In 1966 the voters approved Article XI-F of the Constitution of Maryland. This article provides for code home rule, and is supplemented by Article 25B, and other articles, of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Under Article XI-F the county commissioners may adopt by two-thirds vote a resolution that the county become a code county. The county becomes a code county if a majority of the voters approve the resolution at the next ensuing general election.

In a code county the commissioners have home-rule powers and may enact legislation in the areas of the "express powers" of the charter counties, except there is no elected council or charter and the procedures pertaining to indebtedness are somewhat different. In addition, the commissioners have all the powers they previously had as a commissioner county. The General Assembly must enact laws applicable to the code counties as a class. It may not enact laws applicable to a single code county.


Financial Powers
The "enumerated" and "express" powers, in general, do not provide for tax and fee charging powers. The General Assembly has retained such powers for itself. It delegates them individually, either by tax or by jurisdiction. For instance, in the Tax - Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland all counties, and municipalities, are authorized to tax property (Sections 6-202 and 6-203). In the instance of impact fees, each commissioner and charter county must receive specific authorization to impose such a fee. The code counties must receive such authorization as a class of counties.
Baltimore and Montgomery counties are the exceptions to the foregoing. The General Assembly has given to Baltimore and Montgomery counties in their local codes the same taxing powers as the General Assembly; with exceptions. The exceptions are in the areas of intangible personal property, vehicles, horse racing, income, franchises, insurance, death, corporate recordations, and gross receipts.  To create general obligation debt a commissioner county must receive the authorization of the General Assembly for each specific issue of bonds. In a charter county the charter must provide for the issuance of general obligation debt and whether or not it shall be submitted to the voters of the county. The debt may not exceed 15 percent of the assessable basis (Article 25A, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 5(p)). In a code county general obligation debt may be authorized by a resolution of the commissioners which may be petitioned to referendum (Article 25B, Annotated Code of Maryland, Sections 14 - 21). However, Article XI-F,, Constitution of Maryland, Section 8 allows the General Assembly to limit the property tax rate and the amount of debt for any code county. The General Assembly has yet to exercise such power.


Statutory Responsibilities of the Counties
In addition to the foregoing, various articles of the Annotated Code of Maryland assign certain duties and responsibilities to and requirements on the counties.

The Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland establishes a school system in each county and Baltimore City (Sections 3-102 and 3-103) and requires each board of education to submit its budget to the local governing body (Sections 5-102 and 5-107). Subsequently, each county must levy taxes and provide other revenues sufficient to fund the education budget. The counties, in their enumerated and express powers, have not been authorized to enact education law. 


The Education Article (Title 16) allows the counties to request of the Maryland Higher Education Commission the establishment of applicable community colleges, and requires the counties to fiscally support the community colleges. However, the counties are not empowered to enact law applicable to the community colleges.


Title 23, Subtitle 3 of the Education Article allows each county to establish and support a public library system. Further, it provides the criteria for each library's organization and various other administrative aspects. While the county governing bodies appoint the boards of library trustees and must fiscally support the libraries they have not been authorized to enact law regarding their library systems. Washington County is bound by nineteenth century incorporation enactments regarding its libraries and charter counties (Montgomery County in particular) may have a library agency or board for which they may determine the powers.

The Health (General) Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Title 3, Subtitles 2 and 3 makes each county governing body the county's board of health. The health board shall nominate persons for appointment by the state Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene as the country health officer. The health officer serves as the board's executive officer and appoints the staff of the county health department. In this indirect way state law requires each county to have a health department.


All of the counties and Baltimore City in their enumerated, express, or general powers are authorized to prevent and remove nuisances, prevent the introduction of contagious diseases, etc. Employees of local health boards are hired by the local health departments but are paid through the state personnel system in all but four jurisdictions. Baltimore City and Montgomery and Baltimore counties pay their employees through their respective local personnel systems. Prince George's County utilizes both the state and local personnel systems. State law (Article 88A, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 13) provides that the state Department of Human Resources shall create or continue in each county and Baltimore City a local department of social services. The Secretary of Human Resources appoints the director of the local department with the concurrence of the local governing body. In addition, state law (Article 88A,, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 14) requires a local board of social services appointed by the local governing body. One member of the board must be a member of the local governing authority. Otherwise, the counties and Baltimore City have no statutory authority in regard to social services but may provide funds and stipulate the purposes for which the funds are to be used.


In addition to all of the foregoing, state law places responsibility on the counties and Baltimore City to fund certain functions that are required by the state constitution or law. These are: the county board of supervisors of elections (Article 33,, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 2-4), the State's Attorney (Article V, Constitution of Maryland, Sections 7 - 12 and Article 10, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 39), the sheriff (Article V, Constitution of Maryland, Section 44, and Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article,, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 2-309), the county board of license commissioners (Article 2B,, Annotated Code of Maryland whole section), and certain circuit court support (Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article,, Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 2-501).


County Services
Regardless of the type of government, all counties are responsible for providing the same services and facilities for their citizens. Such services and facilities can be grouped as follows. Services marked with an (*) are required or governed under state law. (Appendix B shows county expenditures for each of these categories.)


o General Government - This grouping includes executive and legislative control, judicial support*, election supervision*, financial administration (budgeting and accounting), legal (counsel and prosecution*), personnel administration, planning and zoning, general services, and alcoholic beverage control*.
o Public Safety - This grouping includes law enforcement, fire protection, corrections, building inspection, animal control, and traffic engineering.
o Public Works - This grouping includes road construction and maintenance, sewer, water, storm drains, and solid waste collection and disposal (in Montgomery and Prince George's counties sewer and water services are provided by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission).
o Health* - This grouping includes support of the state required and regulated county health department.
o Education - (Kindergarten - 12th grade)* This includes support of the state required county board of education that operates under state law.
o Community Colleges* - This includes support of the county or regional board of trustees of a community college that operates under state law.
o Libraries* - This includes support of the county board of library trustees that operate under state law.
o Recreation and Parks - This grouping includes recreation activities and facilities, and park and open space maintenance and development. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has responsibility for parks in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and recreation in Prince George's County.
Development - This grouping includes such things as Urban and rural development and redevelopment, housing, economic development, and economic opportunity programs.
o Debt Service - Debt service is the annual principal and interest payments on debt issued for the development of public capital facilities (i.e., roads, schools, libraries, parks, etc.).


For Additional Information

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