NACo’s Counties Futures Lab recently released 2017 Top County Challenges Across the States. The publication features information from the August NACo-NCCAE Knowledge Management Forum, where 29 executive directors and staff members from 17 state associations of counties met to discuss the future of county governments in their respective states. The discussion included a variety of issues; the most mentioned included preemption, decreasing county revenues, increasing state mandates, justice reform and jails, elections and the opioid crisis.
The report lays out several examples of how these issues specifically impact counties. For instance, in North Dakota, $3 billion in transportation funding previously provided by the state to counties has been reduced to zero. The state of Minnesota has been pushing human services programs on counties, increasing counties’ human services expenditures without the needed funded.
Nine county jails in Washington state are over capacity, while medium-sized and large counties are required by state law to continue investing in largely empty juvenile detention halls. Many counties, especially in Arizona, lack the resources to upgrade election systems. Finally, several associations cited the opioid epidemic as one of their largest challenges due to its impact on public health.
The report also summarizes the event’s educational sessions and gives key takeaways for each one. These sessions included discussions on service sharing in an environment of fiscal constraints, broadband deployment in rural counties and managing a retiring county workforce.