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The Census of Governments is conducted in years ending in '2' and '7'.
Each topic area has its own data collection procedures:
Conducting legal research to determine whether an organization should be classified as a government, and confirming the continued existence of governments, their administrative structure, and their activities; ultimately, counting the number of governments by type of government.
Obtaining the number of people employed by governments, by full-time and part-time status, and the payroll amounts.
Obtaining detailed information about the revenues, expenditures, debts, and assets of governments. Financial information is collected from multiple sources:
Details: State and Locally Administered Defined Benefit Systems: (To Be Released 2014) 2007 Edition [PDF, 18KB]
The Census Bureau classifies the activities of governments into standard categories (such as property taxes, sales taxes, fire protection, highway expenditures, education expenditures, long-term and short-term debt, investments of employee-retirement systems' or workers' compensation systems).
Those categories ensure that data users can analyze similar types of activities, even though states and local governments differ among each other in how they record those activities in their legislation and in their accounting systems.