Texas local governments
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Texas Local Governments. Topical Scenario Cities Counties Special Districts Local Government and Change Local Government and Democracy. Topical Scenario. Natural Disasters and local government response Houston response to Hurricane Katrina Immediate Shelter

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Texas Local Governments

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Texas local governments

Texas Local Governments

  • Topical Scenario

  • Cities

  • Counties

  • Special Districts

  • Local Government and Change

  • Local Government and Democracy

Topical scenario

Topical Scenario

  • Natural Disasters and local government response

  • Houston response to Hurricane Katrina

    • Immediate Shelter

    • Following Education Requirements

  • Impact of Hurricane Rita

    • Biggest traffic jam in history

  • Exposed major holes in local, state and federal response plans.

State evacuation task force study

State Evacuation Task Force Study

  • Local governments can’t control gas and traffic issues

  • Need for sequences evacuation plans

  • Finding inland evacuation centers for evacuees just a bad as controlling gas supplies and traffic flows.

  • State wants to create regional response management but local governments don’t want to give up local control

Local governments

Level closest to the people

Includes cities, counties, and special districts

Responsible for police and fire departments, school districts, water and sewage systems, roads and bridges, garbage disposal, parks, libraries.

Remains a mystery for the average citizens

Lowest voter turnout of all election types

Local Governments

Roots of local government

Roots of Local Government

  • Under Spanish and Mexican rule, Texas was divided into 23 large municipalities

  • Republic of Texas turned them into counties

  • Walking distance to county seat – one day

  • Larger counties had to be carved up

  • Initially counties were totally responsible for education

  • ISDs and board requirements added in 1900

  • Today Texas has 254 counties

    • Harris County most populated – 2,000,000

    • Brewster County geographically largest

    • Loving County least populated with highest per capita income level



  • Administrative subunits of the state

  • At one time allowed to qualify for home rule status

  • Have some discretionary authority

  • Elect local authorities

  • Exist primarily to enforce state laws

  • Texas Association of Counties

County government

County Government

  • No separation of powers

  • Commissioners court is all three branches of governments

  • County judge is county CEO

  • County divided into 4 commissioner areas

  • Sheriff performs law enforcement function

  • Includes - tax assessor-collector, county clerk, district attorney, treasurer, and auditor

County budget

County Budget

  • Revenues

    • property tax, bonds, and fees

  • Expenses

    • law enforcement, jails, roads and bridge construction, and repair, parks, libraries, and county record keeping

Williamson county 2007 budget

Williamson County 2007 Budget

  • Revenue – $221,427,338

  • Expenses –$184,735,028

    • Administration 12.7%

    • Public Safety 49.2%

    • Transportation 10.8%

    • Judicial 8.4%

    • Community Ser 5.2%

    • Debt Interest 13.6%

Criticism of county government

Criticism of County Government

  • Inflexibility - state could allow home-rule type control

  • No Separation of powers - council-manager form would improve oversight

  • No county specific ordinances

  • Spoils system of staffing

  • Traffic management too parochial, every commissioner protects own area.

Cities 1212

Municipal incorporation - a charter from the state.

This charter is the city’s constitution.

Must have a population of at least 200.

Charter must be approved by majority of voters.

Texas Municipal League – lobbying arm for Texas cities.

Cities (1212)

Types of cities

General-law city < 5000 population

80% of cities (900) in this category

operates under State of Texas general laws

must provide basic services

prevents annexation by larger city

Home rule city

operates under local control

state does establish some restrictions

limits property taxes to $2.50 per $100

requires majority vote to change to general-law city

Types of Cities

City forms of government

City Forms of Government

  • Legislature determines forms available

    • Mayor – Council

    • Council – Manager

    • Commission City

  • Majority of voters must approve

  • Can be modified by city to meet local requirements

Mayor council city

Mayor-Council City

  • 20% of home-rule and all general-law cities

  • Combines executive and legislative branches

  • Strong Mayor Type

    • budget, hiring and veto authority

  • Weak Mayor Type

    • shares duties and vote with council

  • Only Houston has strong mayor type governments

Council manager city

Council-Manager City

  • 70% of home-rule cities use this type of government including Austin.

  • Stems from fear of powerful executive

  • Mayor can be popularly elected or elected by council

  • Mayor is “first among equals” with one vote on council

  • Professional city manager runs system

    • competent manager can be powerful

    • controls agenda

    • can also end up as scapegoat

Commission city

Commission City

  • Popularized in 1906 Galveston

  • Commissioners are popularly elected

  • Commission is executive and legislature

  • Mayor elected by council or by voters

  • Collective decisions on policy

  • Individual enforcement and policy application in assigned departments

  • Elections do not guarantee competence

  • Budget process becomes very parochial

  • Very few cities select this type system

Citizen advisory boards

Citizen Advisory Boards

  • Investigates and advises council on specific issues

  • Appointed by council for two year terms

  • Number of boards grows as population grows

  • Can be temporary or permanent

Election of councils

Election of Councils

  • Mayor elected at-large

  • Council options

    • at-large: voters select names based on number of seats on council. Most votes wins seat.

    • At-large-by-place: candidates run for selected place on ballot only.

  • City majority usually controls council seats

Reforms and alternatives

Reforms and Alternatives

  • At-large-by-district with residency requirements

    • Ties candidates to one local area

    • Majority still controls seats

  • Single member districts

    • Geographic zones of equal population

    • Compact as possible

    • Cannot dilute minority neighborhoods

    • Not widely accepted

Mixed system

Mixed System

  • Dallas - 8 single districts, 2 at-large, and mayor at-large. 8-2-1 Plan

  • Modified to 10-4-1 Plan

  • Still considered discriminatory

  • Decided on 14-1 Plan

Cumulative voting

Cumulative Voting

  • At-large style

  • Voters assign votes to whomever they want

  • Can spread 8 votes to 8 candidates

  • Can assign all 8 votes to one candidate

  • During the 1990s 15 cities and 32 ISDs adopted this form of voting to avoid the legal challenges of the straight at-large style.

City ordinances

City Ordinances

  • Laws passed by city council

  • Include traffic, zoning, health, and building codes

  • Can also be used to specify use districts and density districts

City growth annexation

City Growth - Annexation

  • Absorbing adjacent lands to increase tax base

  • Decision made by city council

  • May annex an additional 10% per year

  • Must be contiguous to existing limits

  • Must provide services within 2.5 years

  • May not change the purpose of the annexed land use after annexation

Strip annexation

Strip Annexation

  • Annexation along a strip of roadway

  • Extends 1000 feet either side of the centerline of the roadway

  • May extend strip 3.5 miles per year

Texas local governments


Extraterritorial jurisdiction

Extraterritorial Jurisdiction

  • Laying claim to land just outside the city limits

  • ETJ size depends on population of city

  • Can only extend one to five mile from an area strip annexed

  • Prevents another city from annexing area

  • City exercises some control over growth and development

  • Residents don’t have a normal say in process

City budgets

City Budgets

  • Revenues

    • property taxes

    • sales tax (1%)

    • bonds (general obligation and revenue)

  • Expenses

    • transportation (roads and bridges)

    • safety ( police and fire departments, EMS)

    • recreation areas

    • water and sewage

Round rock budget 2008

Round Rock Budget 2008

  • Propose Revenue - $135,000,000

  • Proposed Expenses - $135,000,000

    • Administration 22.2%

    • Public Safety 25.7%

    • Transportation 6.9%

    • Parks 6.9%

    • Library 2.8%

    • Debt Interest 35.0%

Special districts 3200

Special Districts (3200+)

  • Designed for specific function

  • Created by legislature, board or commission, amendment, commissioners court, city council, referendum

  • Performs functions state or county cannot or will not

  • Multimember board, elected or appointed

  • Examples – RMAs, ISDs, MUDs, airport and housing authorities

  • Revenues - property tax, sales tax, bonds

Round rock isd budget 2008

Round Rock ISD Budget 2008

  • Proposed Revenue - $421,034,515

  • Propose General Expenses - $312,335,619

    • Administrative - 90%

    • Teacher Retirement – 5%

    • Robin Hood Payment – 5%

  • Debt Interest - $ 62,956,663

    • This represents 15% of Total Budget Expenses

Central texas regional mobility authority ctrma

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA)

  • 2001 Texas Mobility Fund created by legislature.

  • Authorized creation of Regional Mobility Authorities.

  • CTRMA created in 2002.

  • Capitol Area Metro Planning Organization – 23 elected members

  • CAMPO approves toll road plan

Criticisms of special districts

Criticisms of Special Districts

  • Too easy to create

  • Too obscure to the public

  • MUDs

    • developers tool for subdivision infrastructure

    • higher home price or property taxes

  • Operate with little regulation

Solutions for problem areas

Solutions for Problem Areas

  • Texas Municipal League – SIG working to protect city power and authority.

  • Metrogoverments - combined bodies to eliminate duplicated and overlapping efforts.

  • Intergovernmental contracting - using one bodies expertise to provide service to another.

  • Privatization - allow private business to provide selected service.

  • Councils of Government - regional planning coordinating bodies directed by federal authorities.

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