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FINDINGS 1


STATE GOVERNMENTS ARE LIMITING COUNTIES’ REVENUE AUTHORITY TO FUND ESSENTIAL SERVICES.


Counties rely on two types of revenue to finance operations, services and other responsibilities: (1) revenues raised by the county from local taxes and user fees (referenced as “own funding”) and (2) funding from the state and federal governments. Most often, counties derive 76 percent of their annual revenues from own funding and the remaining 24 percent from intergovernmental transfers.3


COUNTY OWN FUNDING. Counties raise revenues locally either through taxes or user fees. Most often, the revenue raised through property taxes and other types of taxes are not restricted to a particular activity (called “general revenues”). By 2013, general revenues funded 62.5 percent of county expenses, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the funding share from the prior six years. Of utmost importance are property taxes, which represent 72 percent of county general revenues. 4


Key Terms Used in this Study


CHARGES OR FEES FOR SERVICES: Government charges for services provided or for the use of government assets, such as road tolls, park entry fees and parking charges.


COUNTY GOVERNMENT: An organized entity with governmental character, sufficient discretion in the management of its own affairs to be an independent governmental unit and covering the geographical area of a county or county equivalent. Depending on the state, it can be known also as parish government or borough government. There are 3,069 county governments in the United States, including city-county consolidations, the District of Columbia and independent cities considered county governments under their state constitution or city charter. For ease of use, this study employs interchangeably “county” and “county government.”


Most often, counties derive 76 percent of their annual revenues from own funding and the remaining 24 percent from intergovernmental transfers.


Counties keep only a small portion of the property taxes they collect. Most often, counties keep only 23.7 percent of the property taxes collected statewide, the bulk of which (49.9 percent) go to schools (See Map 1). Many property owners may presume that the county government retains for its own use all of the property taxes levied on a particular parcel because counties often collect not just taxes levied by the county government, but also property taxes levied by a myriad of governmental entities. These entities with separate levies may include cities, municipalities, schools and special districts. For example, counties in five states (Ill., Mass., Mich., N.H. and N.Y.) retain less than 10 percent of the property taxes collected statewide.6


4 56


NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of COUNTIES | NOVEMBER 2016 COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


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