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Information Collection

The Governments Master Address File (GMAF) is updated continuously to add newly-established units that meet Census Bureau criteria for independent governments, and to delete dissolved or inactive units. A governmental unit is considered inactive if it has no activity, receives no revenue, and has no officers currently. The final counts of governments released in September 2013 result from a survey of all cities, counties, townships, and special districts in the United States. The method of collection of school districts is detailed below.

The Government Units Survey (GUS) obtained information from each governmental unit reflecting the government’s status as of October 11, 2011. The survey form is available under the Get Forms tab. The information collected on the form included the status of the governments on the survey reference date, activities and functions of the government, and basic financial information to yield an estimate of the size of the governmental unit. Governments receiving the GUS form could choose to return their information either via mail or the GUS web instrument. The data obtained from the GUS were verified and supplemented by in-depth research performed by Census Bureau analysts between August 2012 and April 15, 2013. Specifically, analysts looked for newly-created units that would not have received GUS forms. Analysts used web research and contacted state government officials who monitor the creation of new governments to find these new units. These units were then added them to the final counts. These final counts reflect the number of governments in scope, i.e., active on June 30, 2012, for the final component of the 2012 Census of Governments, the Finance component.

General–Purpose Governments

The universe list of county, municipal, and township governments is continuously updated as these units of governments become established, dissolved, or reorganized. Decisions to add or delete a county, municipal, or township governments are made on the basis of information obtained through the annual Boundary and Annexation Survey, which is conducted by the Census Bureau's Geography Division. These units were included in the 2011 Government Units Survey (GUS) and received a GUS form.

Special District Governments

The process of updating the universe list of special district governments involves several steps as follows:

  1. Review of state legislation creating or authorizing various types of special district governments
  2. Review of published Federal, state, and private sources that list special district governments
  3. Frequent contact with state and local officials
  4. Review of state and local taxation materials as they relate to special districts with the power to levy taxes
  5. Review of election results as they relate to the universe of special districts

All special districts that had been identified by April 2, 2012 received a GUS form. Units that were discovered afterwards, but were in existence as of the official census date (October 11, 2011), were included in the preliminary counts released in August 2012. Extensive research to locate new units was conducted between August 2012 and April 15, 2013 to determine units that were active on June 30, 2012. The resulting counts are the official final counts of the 2012 Census of Governments.

Public School Systems

The universe list of public school systems, including both independent school district governments and dependent school systems, is updated using directory files of local education agencies maintained by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Discrepancies between the various files are examined and the GMAF is revised as necessary following Census Bureau classification criteria. In addition the GMAF is updated based on information obtained directly from various state education agencies. These units are included in the final Census counts.

Data Collection Schedule

Data collection for the GUS followed this schedule:

Early notice postcard July 18, 2011
Pre-notice letter for GUS September 27, 2011
Mailout of GUS October 11, 2011
Due date for GUS forms November 11, 2011
Reminder letter December 8, 2011
Second mailing of form January 24, 2012
Beginning of telephone nonresponse follow-up February 27, 2012
End of collection period for preliminary counts July 23, 2012
End of collection period for final counts April 15, 2013

The Governments Master Address File is further refined on the basis of information obtained through various annual surveys and censuses, as well as via Quality Improvement Program trips to state capitals to obtain listings of special purpose governments, names of associations, and contact information for the state offices that oversee the activity of the special districts.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Lists & Structure of Governments | 1 (800) 242-2184 | |  Last Revised: September 26, 2013