Local Government Juliet Alfaro Lecture Series Click the speaker for narration. Municipalities 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 referendum. Forms of Government There are three common forms of municipal governments: 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 departments. 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 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 percent. 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. Counties 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 elected officials. 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 funds. 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 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 book. 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 performance. Consolidation The merging or joining of responsibilities by counties and other local governments is a suggestion for reforming county government. 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 governments. 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 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 low. The Costs of Special Districts Special districts are small; they purchase in limited quantities at higher prices than larger governments. 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.