Texas: The State with the Most Counties

Texas has 254 counties - more than any other state in US - due to its huge size. Learn more about Texas' 254 counties.

Texas: The State with the Most Counties

Texas is the second largest state in terms of area and population, but it has 95 more counties than any other state. With 254 counties, Texas has far more than any other state in the US. The reason? The state is huge and its founders wanted to keep residents close to their local governments. The land known as the Youth Territory in the Plains of the Panhandle was divided into 54 counties that year, which is why the counties of northwest Texas are square and rectangular.

When Texas sold land to the United States as part of the Compromise of 1850, nine other counties were added. The first counties in Texas history were called municipalities and date back to Spanish rule, according to the Texas Association of Counties. In the early days of the state, Texans needed to be close to local governments, which were responsible for courts, jails, schools and highways. Each county is governed by a board of commissioners, composed of four elected commissioners (one from each of the four electoral districts chosen according to population) and a county judge elected from among all the voters in the county.

In smaller counties, the county judge actually performs judicial functions, but in larger counties, the county judge functions as the county's executive director. Certain officials, such as the sheriff and the tax collector, are elected separately by voters, but the commissioner's court determines the budgets of its offices and sets the county's general policy. More than 20% of Texas counties are generally located within the areas of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and serve approximately 20 million people, the majority of the state's population. All county elections are partisan; the only exception is the board of directors of the Dallas County Department of Education (Harris County trustees were elected without partisanship until 1988).

Texas counties can collect property and sales taxes to fund sheriff's departments, jails and courts, hospitals, libraries, parks, public services, economic development initiatives, and other public services. Cities and counties (as well as other political entities) can enter into interlocal agreements to share services (for example, a city and a school district can enter into agreements with the county whereby the county bills and collects property taxes for the city and the school district; therefore, only one is send the tax bill instead of three).The Constitution of 1876 established requirements for Texas counties. Texas counties issue debt to finance a variety of purposes such as building prisons, technological improvements, equipment and supplies, and road and bridge improvements. Texas counties issue debt either by seeking approval through bond elections or by issuing certificates of obligation.

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