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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify the differences between county and municipal governments in terms of their responsibilities and funding sources
  • Describe the two primary types of municipal government and the three basic types of county government

County and city governments make up an important component of the overall structure of the government. Not only do they affect citizens directly; it is also easier for citizens to interact with local government officials because their offices and the community’s school board or city council meetings are often close by. Despite this fact, voter turnout in local elections tends to be lower than in state and national elections. Municipal and county governments differ in structure and purpose in several ways.

County government

County governments serve a larger geographical area than cities and towns, but a smaller area than states. They are created by the state government and typically operate under provisions set out in the state constitution. As such, they are essentially administrative units of the state. Census estimates from 2012 indicate that there are just over three thousand counties in the United States.

Brian Lavin. 30 August 2012. “Census Bureau Reports There are 89,004 Local Governments in the United States (CB12-161),” https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/governments/cb12-161.html.
County systems usually take one of three basic forms: the commission system, the council-administrator system, and the council-elected executive system.

The most common form of county government is the commission system    . Under this structure, an elected commission, which generally consists of a small number of commissioners, serves as the governing body within the county, performing all legislative and executive functions. These include adopting a budget, passing county resolutions, and hiring and firing county officials.

Frank Coppa. 2000. County Government: A Guide to Efficient and Accountable Government . Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.

Under the council-administrator system    , the voters elect council members to serve for a specified period of time, and the council in turn appoints an administrator to oversee the operation of the government. The administrator serves at the directive of the council and can be terminated by the council. The goal of this arrangement is to divide administrative and policymaking responsibilities between the elected council and the appointed administrator.

Coppa, County Government: A Guide to Efficient and Accountable Government .

Under a council-elected executive system    , the voters elect both the members of the council and the executive. The executive performs functions similar to those of the state governor. For instance, he or she can veto the actions of the council, draft a budget, and provide suggestions regarding public policy.

Coppa, County Government: A Guide to Efficient and Accountable Government .

Although the tasks they perform can vary from state to state, most counties have a courthouse that houses county officials, such as the sheriff, the county clerk, the assessor, the treasurer, the coroner, and the engineer. These officials carry out a variety of important functions and oversee the responsibilities of running a county government. For instance, the county coroner investigates the cause of death when suspicious circumstances are present. The county clerk oversees the registration of voters and also certifies election results for the county. In addition, this officeholder typically keeps the official birth, death, and marriage records. The county treasurer oversees the collection and distribution of funds within the county, while the county assessor conducts property tax evaluations and informs individual citizens or business owners of their right to contest the appraised value of their property. Finally, a county engineer will oversee the maintenance and construction of county infrastructure.

Coppa, County Government: A Guide to Efficient and Accountable Government .
In short, counties help to maintain roads and bridges, courthouses and jails, parks and pools, and public libraries, hospitals, and clinics.
http://www.naco.org/counties (March 14, 2016).
To provide these services, county governments typically rely on property tax revenue, a portion of sales tax receipts, and funds from intergovernmental transfers by way of federal or state grants.

Questions & Answers

In which areas do you think peoples rights and liberties are at risk of government intrusion?
camille Reply
whenever......new government
Marjan Reply
clearly,who was meant to be in charge of this new government?
Marjan
What is and who is required to file a foreign agent registration statement form
David Reply
Anything on the Mayflower Compact
deborah Reply
What do you really mean by the final draft of articles
Eliza Reply
According to pluralist theory of government
Rachel Reply
Pluralist theory stating what?
Kalu
Meaning
Eliza
What is government mean?
Benedict Reply
compare and contrast a federalist system of govt to a confederate system
Jewles Reply
how does one separate from State or government
Joni Reply
I do Not understand well, so if the abachis want. To seperate, acording to this declaration every one shoud Support them
Ich Reply
what is liberty
Luna Reply
You feel free and you decide and do and achieve the right for you
Ich
was the Bill of rights a necessary addtion to the constitution?
noor Reply
So, if I'm clear a member of the Congress CANNOT live in the state they represent?
Jeremy Reply
what is government
Seth Reply
why is today's government so corrupt?
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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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