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					 Local Government

Juliet Alfaro
Lecture Series
Click the speaker for narration.
   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.
       800 cities are classified as general law cities.
   Home-rule cities :
       Incorporated cities with a population of 5,000 or more.
       Home-rule cities may adopt their own charter.
       About 300 cities are home–rule cities.
       Home-rule cities also have recall, initiative, and
Forms of Government

   There are three common forms of municipal
       council-manager
       mayor-council
       commission
Council-Manager Form of Government

   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 Government

   Found in two forms:
       In the strong-mayor form, the mayor who is
        elected at-large is both chief executive and
        legislative leader.
       The weak-mayor form lacks unified lines of
        authority, since the mayor and the city council
        share administrative authority.
Commission System of Government

   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
     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 are the revenue 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.
   A 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 eight
Issues and Trends
    According to the 2000 Census, some Texas cities grew more
     rapidly than others in the 1990s.
    The 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 population.
    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
   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 elected
   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 ha responsibilities which include collecting
        various county taxes, fees and registering voters.
     The treasurer is responsible for receiving, depositing, and distributing
     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

    Legal officers, known as county attorneys and/or district attorneys,
     perform a variety of functions.
      County attorneys are responsible for giving legal advice to the
        commissioners court,
      Representing the county in litigation,

      Prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors.

    District attorneys are officers who prosecute felony cases.
Issues and Trends a rigid document resembling a statute
 The Texas Constitution is
   Long Ballot
     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 professional engineer.
   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
   Consolidation
     The merging or joining of responsibilities by counties and other
      local governments is a suggestion for reforming county
Special Districts: The Hidden Governments

     Special districts are local governments that provide
      single or closely related services that are not
      provided by general-purpose counties 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
         Dissolution of a special district is frequently accomplished
          through annexation and the assumption of the district’s
          functions and debts by a municipality.
Special Districts: Issues and Trends

   Multiple governments are 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 or city.
       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
        membership, including
           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 value.