The City of Dover operates under a Council-Manager form of government, as outlined in the City charter. More than 3,400 cities and 371 counties operate under this system, which means more than 89 million American citizens live in communities with this form of government. Since its establishment, the Council-Manager form has become the most popular form of government in the United States in communities with populations of 5,000 citizens or more.
Under the Council-Manager system, the Dover City Council provides leadership by setting the city's policies. They are the policy makers elected to represent the community and to concentrate on policy issues responsive to citizens’ needs.
The City Council, consisting of nine members, is the legislative body elected in non-partisan elections every two years, with one representative from each of six wards, two elected at-large and a Mayor. Among the City Council's responsibilities are passing ordinances, adopting the annual budget, adopting a six-year capital improvements program, adopting bond authorizations, appointing committees and boards, and hiring of the City Manager. The City of Dover is empowered by state statute to levy property taxes on real property located within its boundaries to fund operations.
The Dover School Department is a dependent school district. The City Council has bottom-line appropriation authority for the School Department budget. The seven-member Dover School Board is elected in non-partisan elections every two years and has authority to allocate and move appropriations within its budget.
Administrative functions are carried out by the City Manager. The City Manager is responsible for carrying out the policies and ordinances of the City Council, for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the government, and for appointing the heads of the various departments, for negotiating with the various bargaining units of the City and making recommendations to the City Council on various issues.
Administrative functions of the dependent School district are carried out by the School Board. The Board is responsible for carrying out the policies and procedures, compliance with State and Federal laws, overseeing the day to day operations of the dependent school district, negotiating with the various bargaining units, making appointments of school personnel, establishing curriculum and addressing various issues.