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Local Government in Texas. Municipal Systems 2: Special Districts. The Unitary State. In unitary states, authority flows generally downward Citizens elect state gov’t States develop and administer policy either Directly to citizens, Or indirectly through counties

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Local government in texas

Local Government in Texas

Municipal Systems 2:

Special Districts

The Unitary State

  • In unitary states, authority flows generally downward

    • Citizens elect state gov’t

    • States develop and administer policy either

      • Directly to citizens,

      • Or indirectly through counties

      • These policies are generally uniform throughout the state: the ‘general law’

  • Another system to develop and administer policy specific to individual communities:

    • Municipal government

      • Cities

      • Special Districts

Central Government

County A

County B

County C










Special districts
Special Districts

  • Constitutional Basis

    • Some districts established by the Texas Constitution

    • Creation permitted under the Texas Constitution

      • By the Legislature

      • By counties

      • By cities

  • Number of Special Districts: 3000+

  • Generally ‘single-function’ districts

    • Create and administer policy within a narrow, predetermined area

Types of special districts in texas
Types of Special Districts in Texas

  • Independent School Districts

  • Community College Districts

  • Public Service Districts

  • Regulatory Districts

Independent school districts
Independent School Districts

  • Administer elementary and secondary education policy

  • Maintains public school system

  • Regulated by the Texas Education Agency

  • Funded by property taxes

Isd structure
ISD Structure

Resident Voters

  • Resembles council-manager model of city charter

  • Resident Voters elect Board of Trustees

    • At-large

    • By district/precinct

    • DISD uses district system

  • School Board appoints a superintendent and a few other district-level offices

  • Superintendent appoints other district officers

    • May require Board approval

School District Board of Trustees

Financial Officer



Appointed by Superintendent


Other ISD offices


Community college districts
Community College Districts

  • Administer part of public higher education policy

    • Low-cost University-level courses

    • Lower division (“First-” and “Second-year”) courses

    • Remediation

    • Workforce development

  • Maintains Community College System

  • Regulated by

    • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

    • Interstate accreditation agencies (e.g. SACS)

  • Funded by property taxes and by appropriation by the Texas Legislature

Community college district structure
Community College District Structure

  • Varies with individual charters

    • Single college

    • Single college with multiple campuses

    • Multiple colleges

  • Typically similar to ISD structures

    • Elected Board of Trustees

    • Board appoints Chancellor and other principal officers

    • Chancellor may appoint subordinate officers

      • Often by and with the advice and consent of the Board of Trustees

Public service districts
Public Service Districts

  • May be created through any of several methods

    • Act of the Texas Legislature

    • Compact among municipalities

    • City ordinance

  • Provide specific service to the public

    • Airport service

    • Public transit service

    • Public utilities

Public service district structure
Public Service District Structure

  • Varies with the method of establishment

  • Legislative Act

    • May either be elected by voters in the district or appointed in such manner as the state legislature directs

  • Inter-municipal compact

    • Member cities appoint board members through city councils

  • City Ordinance

    • Originating city council appoints members

Regulatory districts
Regulatory Districts

  • Generally similar in structure to Public Service Districts

  • Usually not elected

    • Appointed by the agency that established the district

  • Exercise regulatory power

    • Specific policy areas

    • Limited jurisdictional boundaries