Local government areas
Victoria is divided up into 79 local government areas which are referred to as councils or municipalities. They are classified as being either a city, rural city, shire or borough.
There are some small parts of Victoria which lie outside the boundaries of those 79 council areas and therefore have no local government. They are referred to as unincorporated areas and include French Island in Western Port, a number of other off-shore islands, and the snow resorts of Falls Creek, Lake Mountain, Mount Baw Baw, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and Mount Stirling.
What local government does
Councils maintain designated community infrastructure including things like local roads, drains, public buildings, recreation facilities and parks. They take responsibility for planning and land use within the community, waste collection and recycling services. Health, wellbeing, counselling and youth programs are conducted. Councils also create local laws which help to protect public health, safety or amenity.
Local government is primarily funded by property taxes (council rates) and government grants.
Structure of councils
Councillors are democratically elected by residents and ratepayers of a local government area. They define policies and make decisions that are in the best interests of the community they represent.
Councillors appoint a chief executive officer (CEO) who heads a team of staff which are responsible for implementing council decisions and delivering services to the community. Council staff also provide advice and expertise to the elected councillors.
The mayor is a member of the council that acts as a ceremonial figurehead and provides leadership for both the council and community. In all but two of Victoria's councils, a mayor is elected by councillors who vote amongst themselves for the position. In the City of Melbourne and City of Greater Geelong, residents and ratepayers directly elect a lord mayor when voting, in addition to electing councillors.
Council elections are normally held for every municipality in Victoria every four years, on the fourth Saturday in October. The last council elections were held on Saturday 27th November 2012. The next council elections are expected to be held on Saturday 22nd October 2016.
Voting is compulsory for residents aged between 18 and 69. Voting is optional for residents aged 70 years and over. Ratepayers who don't live within the municipality their property is situated within are entitled to cast a vote in the election for that municipality, however it is not compulsory unless their property is within the City of Melbourne.
Depending on the municipality, voting may be conducted either by attendance voting at nominated venues or by completing voting papers via the postal service.