Local governments have a greater effect on
There are 254 counties, about 1200 city
governments, & >3,000 special dist.
There are various types of special districts.
I. Local Politics in Context
A. Local Governments & Federalism
1. Federalism has two levels: national &
2. Local governments are “creatures of the
3. Intergovernmental relations (def) is
another term for federalism.
B. Grass Roots Challenges
1. Delivery of Services (water, public safety,
2. Grassroots Governments (limited by the
3. Need for More Citizen Involvement (very
few people participate).
II. Municipal Governments
Definition of Municipal
Municipal (city) government (def) a local
government for an incorporated community
established by law as a city.
A. Legal Status of
1. General-Law Cities – cities with 201-
5000 pop. Receive a charter from the state
2. Home-Rule Cities – cities with >5,000
pop. May decide on their own form of
3. Three Special Powers of H-R Cities
a. Recall (def) process of removing an
b. Initiative (def) a proposed law, presented
c. Referendum (def) issues referred to the
voters to accept or reject
B. Forms of City Government
1. Strong mayor-
2. Weak mayor-council
4. Commission form
1. Strong Mayor-Council Form
a. (Def) a separately elected council & a
mayor, with veto, appointment, and
• single-member dist. Councilmen
• At-large mayor
• Mayor has power to budget
• Mayor has veto power
c. Used in Houston and El Paso
2. Weak Mayor-Council Form
The mayor is one of several city councilmen,
with no additional powers. (Still used in
Mayor Tommy Metcalf
of Conroe >>>
3. Council-Manager Form
• A mayor is elected at large, with few
• The council makes general policy
• A city manager is hired by the council to
run the city’s depts.
• A manager can earn $200,000+/yr.
4. Commission Form
• No mayor; one commissioner over each
• Presently, no city in Texas uses a pure form
of this government.
• Major weakness… no mayor!
(Galveston Storm, 1900) >>>
C. Municipal Politics
1. Texas cities have non-partisan elections.
2. Cities must re-district every 10 years.
3. Two types of city elections in Texas…
a. At-large elections (def)
b. Single-member district elections (def)
c. Type “b” has become more popular.
4. Cumulative voting (def)
voters vote one or more of
the specified number of
votes for one or more
candidates (in any
5. “Place system” candidates
run for a particular “place”
(number on the council) all
can vote for each place the
Cities may require term
limits for candidates.
D. Municipal Services
1. Establishment Power
Historically, bankers and businessmen
represented the power in city politics. (No
2. Flexibility in City Services
Most cities have advisory boards &
commissions to give advice to the city
E. City Government Revenue
1. Taxes come from 3 major sources:
property, occupation, and sales.
2. Fees are collected from private utility
companies, licenses, and permits.
3. Burrowing comes from general
obligation bonds and revenue bonds.
4. Property Taxes & Tax Exemptions
In hard times, real estate values go down,
which cuts local tax revenue.
Homestead and other exemptions also cut
into the “pie.”
There may be “tax caps”, as well.
Each county has a tax appraisal district, to
re-appraise values; which property owners
usually don’t like…
5. The Bottom Line
With the dislike of increasing tax rates the
result is oblivious…
Raise fees or create new ones.
Impose hiring/wage freezes.
Contract with private firms.
Improve employee productivity.
F. Generating Revenue for
• Federal & state $$$ is
• Cities may elect to have a
local ½% sales tax.
• Some have created TRZs
(Tax Reinvestment zones).
A. County Organization &
1. Commissioners Court
Made up of 4 commissioners and the county judge.
They adopt the county budget.
Provide county buildings
Maintain county roads
Administer county health & welfare programs
Administer all general elections
• Executive office of the county
• Fills vacancies on the commissioner’s court
and my write the county budget
• Hears cases in the county court
• Does not need a law degree.
• Judge Drue Bynum =>>>
3. County Attorney & Sheriff
• The county attorney is
the chief legal officer of
the county (if there is no
• The county sheriff is the
chief law enforcement
officer of the county.
J. Keith Gary, Sheriff >>
4. County Clerk & Tax Assessor
• The county clerk keeps
the county records.
• The tax assessor-
<<< John W. Ramsey,
Grayson County Tax
4. County Treasurer & Auditor
• County Treasurer • County Auditor
• Receives and pays out • The auditor checks the
all funds as authorized account books of all
by the commissioners county officials for
• He/she may also
prepare the county
6. Appointed Officials
Some counties hire officials to run certain
programs, such as airports, hospitals, etc.
(Grayson County Airport)
B. County Finance
1. Taxation (Revenue – County Income)
Largest part is from property taxes.
2. Revenues from Non-Tax Sources--
selling bonds, liquor fees, %age of state
taxes, returned to the county.
3. Tax Incentives – tax abatements,
reimbursements, or TIFs (tax increment
financing) to attract or retain businesses.
4. The Bottom Line
Texas counties are under pressure to raise
property taxes or cut services. Revenue is
Spending patterns very, because of the
different sizes and needs of counties.
Roads, bridges, social services, and
unfunded state mandates
C. County Government Reform
1. Rule-making power is needed.
2. A chief executive is also needed
3. The county road systems need an
D. Border Counties
1. Fast growing South Texas has problems
with colonias and infrastructure, which
are made worse by anti-tax feelings in
2. However, federal funding has increased
there, to fight possible terrorism.
IV. Special Districts
A. School Districts
1. There are 1,000+ ISDs in Texas.
2. Conservatives and liberals have different ideas,
a. Conservatives want self-rule school boards, cash
vouchers, and charter schools.
b. Liberals are opposed to all of these things.
c. School financing is a continual problem
d. The “No Child Left Behind” Law is also
B. Junior or Community
These are financed by
local taxes and the
education group in
Texas has 75 community
students (some like
C. Non-Educational Special Districts
• There are >1,000 of these and they
include; water, utility, housing, soil &
water conservation, hospital, public
1. Municipal utility districts (MUDs) benefit
real estate developers.
2. Many new types have developed in the
past 10 years
3. Still solving problems with more units of
V. Metropolitan Areas
A. Councils of Governments (COGs)
(Def) advisory groups made up of local
governments that perform regional
They have no taxing or lawmaking
They may led to metro governments (def)
consolidation of local governments in an
urban area under a single authority.
B. Municipal Annexation
1. Municipal Annexation – cities may annex
beyond their limits. Extraterritorial
jurisdiction is allowed (def) limited
authority outside its boundaries.
2. Intergovernmental contracting
3. Creations of new districts
4. Future Alternatives – big changes will be
slow and require constitutional amendments