Municipalities are general purpose local governments.
Texas municipalities are classified as either general-
law or home-rule cities.
General Law Cities:
– Incorporated with a population of 5,000 or less.
– About 75% of Texas cities are classified as general law
Home-rule cities :
– Incorporated cities with a population of 5,000 or more.
– Home-rule cities may adopt their own charter
– Recall, Initiative, Referendum
Forms of Government
There are three common forms of municipal
Council-Manager Form of Gov’t
Features an elected city council and a city
manager who is hired by the council.
The council makes policy decisions
The city manager is responsible for the day to
day operations of city government.
Mayor-Council Form of Gov’t
Found in two forms:
– In the strong-mayor form the mayor who is elected
at-large is both chief executive and legislature
– The weak-mayor form lacks unified lines of
authority, since the mayor and council share
Commission System of Gov’t
An election system that permits members of a
city council to also serve as heads of city
Municipal Election Systems
At-large elections are citywide elections. In a pure at-
large system, voters elect all the members of the city
council. With the at-large place system, candidates run
for a particular seat on the council.
Single-member districts is an election system in which
members of city council are elected from individual
districts by voters who live in each district.
One alternative system is cumulative voting, which is
an at-large election system that permits voters to cast
one or more votes for a single candidate.
Revenue Sources and Limitations
Property taxes where the revenue is based on a percent of
assessed value of real property.
User fees, or charging citizens for services received, are also
popular for two reasons:
– citizen opposition to higher taxes, and
– the notion that people should pay for what they actually use.
Local governments utilize public debt infrastructure projects
such as roads, buildings, and public facilities.
Rollback election is an election that permits the voters to decide
if a property tax increase ( of more than eight percent) approved
by a local government will remain in effect or be reduced to
Issues and Trends
According to the 2000 Census, some Texas cities grew more
rapidly than others in the 1990s.
Development Corporation Act is a state law that allows select
Texas cities to raise the sales tax for economic development.
A mandate is an order imposed by a higher-level government
requiring a lower-level government to meet an obligation.
Annexation is a policy that permits a city to add unincorporated
areas into the city’s jurisdiction.
The Municipal Annexation Act establishes a buffer area known
as extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) that extends from one-half
to five miles beyond the city’s limits, depending on the city’s
Term limits restrict the number of times that a politician can be
reelected to a local office.
The state constitution sets-up the 254 Texas counties.
Functions of Counties
– County government is responsible for administering county,
state, and national elections.
– County government acts for the state in
• securing rights-of-way for highways
• law enforcement
• registering births, deaths, and marriages
• housing state district courts
• registering motor vehicles
• recording land titles and deeds, and
• collecting some state taxes and fees.
Structure & Organization of Counties
County governments consist of a number of independently
The commissioners court is the policymaking body of a county.
– Consists of a county judge and four commissioners.
Law enforcement officers are the county sheriff and constable.
– The sheriff is the chief county law enforcement officer.
– Constables are county law enforcement officials who serve as process
officers of justices of the peace courts.
Financial officers of the county include the tax assessor-
collector, the treasurer, and the auditor.
– The tax assessor-collector responsibilities include collecting various
county taxes and fees and registering voters.
– The treasurer is responsible for receiving, depositing, and disbursing
– The county auditor’s duties include reviewing county financial records
and serving as chief budget officer.
Structure & Organization of Counties
Clerical officers in the county are the county and district clerks.
– The county clerk serves as chief record-keeper and election officer.
– The district clerk’s role is to be record-keeper for the district’s courts.
Legal officers, known as county attorneys and/or district
attorneys, perform a variety of functions.
– County attorneys are responsible for giving legal advise to the
– Representing the county in litigation,
– Prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors.
District attorneys are officers who prosecute felony cases.
Issues and Trends
– Reformers recommend a short ballot which is the listing of only a few
independently elected offices on and election ballot.
Unit Road System
– This system takes the day to day responsibility for roads away from
individual county commissioners and concentrates it in the hands of a
A Spoils System
– A system that gives elected officials considerable discretion in
employment and promotion analysis.
– Opponents of these practices propose a merit system that bases
employment and promotion on specific qualifications and performance.
– The merging or joining of responsibilities by counties and other local
governments is a suggestion for reforming county government.
Special Districts: The Hidden
Special districts are local governments that provide
single or closely related services that are not provided
by general-purpose county’s or municipal
– Special districts are the most numerous of all local
governments in Texas.
– Special districts provide a service that other local
governments will not or cannot provide.
– Special districts may be dissolved when no longer needed.
– Dissolution of a special district is frequently accomplished
through annexation and assumption of the district’s functions
and debts by a municipality.
Special Districts: Issues and
Multiple Governments on the Rise
The rise of special district governments is of concern
for two reasons.
– Special districts are commonly regarded as “hidden”
governments in which the actions of officials and employees
are less visible than if the services were provided by a county
– When special district elections are held at times or places
other than those for general elections, voter turnout is quite
The Costs of Special Districts
Special districts are small, they purchase in
limited quantities at higher prices than larger
Special districts may have little or no authority
to tax, they are forced to borrow money by
issuing revenue bonds.
Councils of Governments (COGs)
Councils of government (COGs) represent an attempt
by the state to encourage coordination of local
government activities on a regional basis.
– The COG provides several significant services to its
• regional planning,
• technical services, and
• help in applying for grants.
– By bringing local officials together, COGs provide a base for
the exchange of ideas and knowledge that is of substantial