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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