In 2015, County Progress debuted our County Courthouse Primer, which includes a series of articles on the individual offices within the courthouse. This special booklet also includes “Key Concept” installments designed to address essential questions related to county government complete with statutory references and talking points. Can Commissioners Court regulate traffic or set a curfew? Can a county finance debt? Are Commissioners required to file road reports? These and other topics are covered in this unique publication, available for viewing at www.countyprogress.com. County Progress revised our primer in 2017; we will be updating the County Courthouse Primer once again over the next year to reflect the latest legislative changes.
Some nine years ago, the V.G. Young Institute of County Government, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and the Texas Association of Counties joined forces to develop a curriculum dedicated to the young people of the Lone Star State.
Keys to the Courthouse: Promoting County Government Awareness in Youth is a 170-plus page, leadership-oriented publication on county government. This 4-H curriculum, released in May 2010, is designed for middle and high school students. The five lessons teach participants about the functions of elected county officials in Texas, the primary services offered by county government, the justice process at the county level, elections and voting, and the financing of county government. Each lesson has appropriate activities to reinforce learning. Accompanying the curriculum is a large wall map showing the counties of Texas and a CD that contains the lessons, activities, and informative videos.
To purchase this curriculum or to share this resource with your local educators, go to https://vgyi.tamu.edu/education-offered/youth-keys-to-the-courthouse/.
In the meantime, who among us couldn’t use a refresher course on some of the basics of county government?
(Psst… check your quiz answers at www.countyprogress.com.)
As locally elected officials, County Judges and County Commissioners are in regular contact with those they serve. While some of your constituents may make courthouse appointments, others may approach you in a casual setting such as the local coffee shop or at a sporting event.
You never know when you will be asked a basic or complicated question regarding county government. While sometimes the best answer is, “I will research and get back to you,” other times install recall will serve you well.
Over the years, veteran County Judges and Commissioners have advised their peers on Commissioners Courts to have answers to these questions at their fingertips.
- What is my total county budget?
- What is my county tax rate?
- What services does my county provide? (See mandatory/discretionary quiz.)
Page through your final budget document. If you don’t understand the following, ask your county’s budget officer to explain:
- Your county’s special funds and dedicated funds
- Your county’s debt service funds
Flow charts are an easy way to help your taxpayers understand how county government is structured. Ellis County includes a personnel chart in the county’s final budget document.