Counties Matter

Transportation & Infrastructure

Transportation and infrastructure are core public sector responsibilities that impact everything from our daily commutes to shipping goods around the globe. From building and maintaining roads and bridges to providing efficient transit options, counties are a driving force connecting communities and strengthening our economy. Counties play a major role in other essential community infrastructure like schools, hospitals, jails, courthouses, parks and water purification and sewage systems.

Services Include

  • Roads & bridges
  • Airports
  • Public transportation
  • Construction of public facilities 
  • Utilities like gas & electricity
  • Solid waste recycling & management
  • Water & sewage 
  • Telecommunications

Counties own and maintain 45% of America’s roads

Counties own 40% of bridges

Counties are involved in 27% of public transportation systems

Counties are involved in the operation of 34% of public airports

  • Almost $60 billion in construction of public facilities
  • Almost $22 billion in sewage and solid waste management
  • More than $122 billion total in building infrastructure and maintaining and operating public works

COMMUNITY HEALTH

Counties invest heavily in local residents’ health and well-being, often serving as a safety net for low-income and indigent residents. County health departments protect our residents and communities by offering a wide range of services like administering flu shots, providing health information and preventing and responding to public health emergencies. 

From hospitals and emergency rooms to clinical care facilities, many counties operate the systems that keep us healthy from the time we are born to the time we grow old. Counties also often have significant responsibilities for behavioral and mental health services and care.

Services Include

  • Hospitals & health clinics
  • Public health
  • Behavioral & mental health 
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Immunizations & prevention 
  • Indigent healthcare 
  • Health code inspections 
  • Nursing homes

Counties are involved in promoting public health through 1,592 local health departments

Counties support nearly 1,000 hospitals

…with more than 100,000 beds

In a majority of states (27), counties are required to provide healthcare for low-income, uninsured or underinsured residents

Local governments, mostly counties, contribute $28 billion to the non-federal share of Medicaid 

  • About $83 billion in community health and hospitals
  • More than $58 billion in human services

JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY

Counties play a major role in two distinct areas of justice and public safety: emergency response  and preparedness and the criminal justice system.  Counties keep communities safe by providing law enforcement and preventing crime. From patrolling the streets, to operating and maintaining county detention facilities, to serving as the arm of the county courts, county sheriffs and other law enforcement departments are on the front lines of public safety and the criminal justice system. Other key county players are judges, district attorneys, public defenders, court clerks, jail directors, 911 operators and coroners.

Services Include

  • Sheriffs departments
  • County police departments 
  • County courts
  • Jails & correctional facilities 
  • Juvenile detention & justice services
  • Emergency management personnel 
  • Paid & volunteer firefighters
  • District attorneys
  • Public defenders
  • Coroners

Counties operate 91% of all local jails

  • Almost $11 Billion in fire protection activities
  • Almsot $19 billion on county courts and legal services
  • Over $35 billion on 3,041 police and sheriff departments
  • Almost $93 billion total in justice and public safety services

COUNTY MANAGEMENT

Counties provide vital services to all Americans, from issuing birth certificates and marriage licenses to operating 911 call centers. Counties often build and maintain parks, community centers, libraries and cultural centers. Counties are responsible for managing elections, from presidential to local. While balancing numerous administrative responsibilities, counties deliver essential services to ensure healthy, vibrant and safe communities across the United States.

Services Include

  • Record keeping 
  • Tax assessments & collection
  • 911 call centers 
  • Elections and polling places
  • Recreation and parks 
  • Arts programs
  • Housing
  • Community and economic development

There are 37,984 total county elected officials (including county board, executives and row officers)

…19,355 elected county board members and elected executives

…18,629 are independently elected constitutional or row officers responsible for specific county functions

Every two years counties fund and oversee more than 104,000 polling places

…and coordinate more than 648,000 poll workers

  • Almost $10 billion to build and maintain parks and recreational facilities
  • Close to $11 billion in housing and community development

COUNTIES' HISTORY & DIVERSITY

Counties are one of America’s oldest forms of government, dating back to 1634 when the first county governments (shires) were established in Virginia. The organization and structure of today’s 3,069 county governments are chartered under state constitutions or laws and are tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of  states and local areas.  

No two counties are exactly the same. Counties are diverse in structure and how we deliver services to our communities. In general, states decide the roles and responsibilities of county governments. Counties are governed by locally elected officials and, in some instances, operate under home rule authority, which allows for more local flexibility and control with structural, functional and fiscal powers. Though organizational structures vary, all county governments are on the front lines of delivering vital services to residents.  

Resources

TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

Transportation and infrastructure are core public sector responsibilities that impact everything from our daily commutes to shipping goods around the globe. From building and maintaining roads and bridges to providing efficient transit options, counties are a driving force connecting communities and strengthening our economy. Counties play a major role in other essential community infrastructure like schools, hospitals, jails, courthouses, parks and water purification and sewage systems.

Almost $60 billion in construction of public facilities

Almost $22 billion in sewage and solid waste management

More than $122 billion total in building infrastructure and maintaining and operating public works

COMMUNITY HEALTH

Counties invest heavily in local residents’ health and well-being, often serving as a safety net for low-income and indigent residents. County health departments protect our residents and communities by offering a wide range of services like administering flu shots, providing health information and preventing and responding to public health emergencies.

From hospitals and emergency rooms to clinical care facilities, many counties operate the systems that keep us healthy from the time we are born to the time we grow old. Counties also often have significant responsibilities for behavioral and mental health services and care.

About $83 billion in community health and hospitals

More than $58 billion in human services

JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY

Counties play a major role in two distinct areas of justice and public safety: emergency response and preparedness and the criminal justice system. Counties keep communities safe by providing law enforcement and preventing crime. From patrolling the streets, to operating and maintaining county detention facilities, to serving as the arm of the county courts, county sheriffs and other law enforcement departments are on the front lines of public safety and the criminal justice system. Other key county players are judges, district attorneys, public defenders, court clerks, jail directors, 911 operators and coroners.

Almost $11 billion in fire protection activities

Almost $26 billion on correctional facilities

Almost $19 billion on county courts and legal services

Over $33 billion on 3,041 police and sheriff departments

Almost $93 billion total in justice and public safety services

COUNTY MANAGEMENT

Counties provide vital services to all Americans, from issuing birth certificates and marriage licenses to operating 911 call centers. Counties often build and maintain parks, community centers, libraries and cultural centers. Counties are responsible for managing elections, from presidential to local. While balancing numerous administrative responsibilities, counties deliver essential services to ensure healthy, vibrant and safe communities across the United States.

Almost $10 billion to build and maintain parks and recreational facilities

Close to $11 billion in housing and community development

COUNTIES' HISTORY & DIVERSITY

Counties are one of America’s oldest forms of government, dating back to 1634 when the first county governments (shires) were established in Virginia. The organization and structure of today’s 3,069 county governments are chartered under state constitutions or laws and are tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of states and local areas.

No two counties are exactly the same. Counties are diverse in structure and how we deliver services to our communities. In general, states decide the roles and responsibilities of county governments. Counties are governed by locally elected officials and, in some instances, operate under home rule authority, which allows for more local flexibility and control with structural, functional and fiscal powers. Though organizational structures vary, all county governments are on the front lines of delivering vital services to residents.