Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Districts of Germany
There are 439 German districts, administrative units in Germany. The districts are at an intermediate level of administration between the Länder (German states) and the local / municipal levels (Gemeinden).
Types of district
The majority of the districts are rural districts, Landkreise, of which there are 323. Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants (and in some Länder smaller towns) do not usually belong to a district but take over district responsibilities themselves - similar to the concept of independent cities These are known as urban districts (Kreisfreie Städte / Stadtkreise) - cities which constitute a district in their own right, and there are currently (2004) 116 of them, bringing the total number of districts to 439. In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are some cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants which are not urban districts, for example Recklinghausen, Siegen, Paderborn, Bergisch Gladbach and Neuss.
The districts are responsible for the following:
- according to federal and regional laws:
- the building and upkeep of B roads
- other building plans which cover more than one local authority's area
- caring for national parks
- social welfare
- youth welfare
- the building and upkeep of hospitals
- the building and upkeep of state institutes of secondary education
- household waste collection and disposal
- car registration
- electing the Landrat or Landrätin, the chairperson of the district
- according to local laws: (differ in each region)
- financial support for culture
- the building of pedestrian zones and bicycle lanes
- financial support for school exchanges
- the building and upkeep of public libraries
- revitalisation of the economy
- encouraging tourism
- the management of Volkshochschulen (state run adult education colleges)
All these tasks are carried out by local (municipal) authorities operating together. Urban districts have these responsibilities and also those of the municipalities.
The district parliament, the Kreistag, is an the representative organ of the district and and is responsible for local self-administration. It has only executive, but no legislative powers. The parliament is elected directly every five years, except in Bavaria where it is elected every six years, and in Schleswig-Holstein, where it is every four years.
The district administration is chaired by an officer known as Landrat or Landrätin. In northern Germany, this is also the name of the district administration, in southern Germany it is known as Kreisverwaltung.
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