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Key Terms Used in this Study CAPITAL EXPENDITURE: Expenditures related to construction, purchasing or renovations for capital assets.


COUNTY-OWN FUNDING: Revenues raised by counties locally through taxes or user fees. This revenue may be classified as either general or restricted revenue.


COUNTY EXPENSES: Includes expenses for primary government activities (such as judicial and public safety programs) and business-type activities (such as waste disposal and collection services).


GENERAL REVENUES: Unrestricted revenues generated by taxes, unrestricted grants and contributions and in some counties, transfers and special items.


JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES: Includes sheriff, police and related services (impound, task forces, general law enforcement and patrol); emergency management and medical services; 911 communications; fire protection; detention centers and related commissaries, stores and inmate services. Also included in this class are judicial functions: judges; attorneys; prosecutors; justices; court clerks; probate courts; courthouses; warrant services and law libraries.


PASSED-THROUGH FUNDS: Federal government funding used by counties, but received directly from the federal government by other entities, such as the state governments.


RESTRICTED REVENUE: Revenue which must be used to fund specific functions.


TAX REVENUES: Revenue generated by the taxes levied by the county. Most common are property taxes (assessed ad valorem on property within county borders), sales and use taxes (imposed on sales of goods within the county, or on the use of personal property not subject to a sales tax; also includes taxes related to hospitality), other taxes (include specific ownership taxes, severance taxes, transfer taxes, litigation taxes, inheritance taxes, insurance premium taxes and others). Less common county taxes include excise taxes (levied on goods/services for the purpose of controlling their provision (e.g., motor fuel taxes), licenses and permits (taxes which may be imposed by a county on a given class of business type or occupation; includes business license taxes and professional taxes), franchise taxes (imposed on public utilities, or for the use of public rights-of-way) and income taxes (based on income earned within county borders).


Besides taxes, counties also raise use fees or charges for services, such as filing and permit fees and water rates. These revenue sources are restricted frequently to fund expenses related only to that service for which the county charges a fee. Most often, they cover about 18 percent of county expenses, mainly expenses for utilities and water, sewage and solid waste.7


For instance, Florida allows counties to impose a


real estate conveyance fee, which must go towards the creation of housing opportunities for low-income residents.


STATE AND FEDERAL FUNDING. States provide a variety of funding to counties. Many states distribute a share of the state’s general tax revenue to counties and other local governments. For example, Ohio and South Carolina accomplish this through a mechanism known as the Local Government Fund (LGF); this partially covers the county costs related to state-mandated programs. Some states transfer part of the state sales tax to counties through revenue sharing. Arizona counties receive approximately 13.5 percent of Ariz.’s state sales tax, an amount exceeding $744 million in fiscal year 2015. State income taxes are


6 58


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


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