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County Countdown – Feb. 20, 2024

Counties Matter. Counties are diverse in structure and how we deliver services to our residents, yet we all share the vision of achieving health, safe and vibrant counties across America.  
 

America’s 3,069 counties, parishes and boroughs represent the places where we live, work and play.

Counties are so present in our everyday lives that we sometimes overlook the many ways we help our communities thrive. Often behind the scenes, 40,000 county elected officials and 3.6 million county employees are indispensable partners in our nation's intergovernmental system, which balances and shares roles and responsibilities among all levels of government. Counties collaborate with federal, state, local and tribal governments to deliver on-to-ground services and meet our residents' needs.

Counties are responsible for maintaining roads and bridges, caring for our physical and mental health, administering elections, ensuring public safety, strengthening environmental stewardship, and so much more

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Key Stats

38.9K

Elected Officials

38,873 total county elected officials (including county board, executives and row officers)

19.6K

Elected board members and executives

19,579 elected county board members and elected executives

18.6K

Row Officers

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

Counties Matter Generic
3,069 Counties

America's Diverse Counties

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 the Same

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 and building stronger communities. 

Key Stats

319M

County Residents

3.6M

County Employees

Equaling roughly 1 in 50 working Americans

CM Pavers

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 hospitals, jails, courthouses, parks, schools and water purification and sewage systems.

Services Include

  • Roads and bridges
  • Airports
  • Public transportation
  • Construction of public facilities
  • Utilities like gas and electrctricity
  • Solid waste management and recycling
  • Water, sewage & storm water
  • Emergency telecommunications

Key Stats

45%

of America's road miles

Counties own and maintain 45% of America's roads.

34%

of public airports

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

38%

of bridges

Counties own 38% of bridges, a total of 229,386

Counties Invest Annually

$61B

in the construction of public facilities

Counties invest $61 billion in the construction of public facilities, such as hospitals, schools, jails and other local institutions.

$134B

total in building

Counties invest $134 billion total in building, maintaining and operating physical infrastructure and public works.

$22B

in sewage and solid waste management

Counties invest $22 billion in sewage and solid waste management.

Community Health

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 and health clinics
  • Public health
  • Behavioral and mental health
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Immunization
  • Indigent healthcare
  • Health code inspections
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities

Key Stats

900+

public hospitals

Counties support 900+ public hospitals with more than 62,00 beds

1,592

local health departments

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

$28 B

non-federal share of Medicaid

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

Counties Invest Annually

$62.8B

in human services

Counties invest $62.8 billion in human services

$100B+

in health and hospitals

Counties invest $100+ billion in community health and hospitals

$163B+

in community health, hospitals and human services

Counties invest $163+ billion in community health, hospitals and human services

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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.

From patrolling the streets, to operating and maintaining county detention and court facilities, to employing innovative approaches to safely reduce jail populations, county sheriffs and other law enforcement departments are on the front lines of justice and public safety. Other key county players are judges, district attorneys, public defenders, court clerks, jail directors, 911 operators, coroners and medical examiners.

Services Include

  • County courts
  • Public defenders
  • Sheriff departments
  • County police departments
  • Paid and volunteer firefighters
  • District attorneys
  • Jails and correctional facilities
  • Juvenile detention and justice services
  • Coroners and medical examiners
  • Emergency management personnel

Counties Invest Annually

$107B

in justice and public safety

Counties invest almost $107 billion in justice and public safety services.

$13.3B

in fire protection

Counties invest almost $13.3 billion in fire protection activities

$42B

in police and sheriff departments

Counties invest over $42 billion on 2,961 police and sheriff departments

$21B

on county courts and legal services

Counties invest almost $21 billion on county courts and legal services

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Veterans

Counties are home to more than 17 million veterans, comprising seven percent of residents living in our counties.

Counties fund and operate, almost exclusively through local tax revenues, County Veterans Service Officers (CVSOs) in 29 states and the District of Columbia, which help veterans claim more than $52 billion in federal VA benefits each year. CVSOs help our veterans access stable housing, employment and education opportunities, and deliver critical mental health services that treat trauma and prevent suicide.

County Veteran Service Officers (CVSOs)

County veterans services officers operate in 29 states and the District of Columbia are responsible for helping veterans access federal benefits that ease the transition into civilian life and ensure access to essential services.

Key Stats

48%

of veteran expenditures went to veteran compensation and benefits

40%

of veteran expenditures when to veteran medical care

7%

of county residents are veterans

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Public Lands Management and Resilience

Counties offer a local, detailed level of expertise on resource management issues to federal land agencies.

Whether participating in forest health projects to reduce wildfire, providing emergency services on federal lands, maintaining roads and other access points or implementing wildlife conservation measures, counties are a key partner in ensuring federal lands and resources are enjoyed and used wisely.

Counties and Federal Public Lands

Sixty-two percent of America's counties have federal public lands. Counties received more than $515 million in Payments in Lieu of Taxes funding in FY2021

1,700

counties received PILT funding

More than 1700 counties received funding in 2021.

$2.78

per entitlement acre

Nationally, the media PILT amount per entitlement acre was $2.78.

$272,526

average payment

The average payment to counties receiving PILT was $272,526.

Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Stats

Counties also received more than $249 million in Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding in FY2019. PILT and SRS enable counties to provide services by offsetting losses in tax revenues due to federal land in their jurisdictions.

$249M

in SRS funding

Counties received more than $249 million in SRS funding in FY2018

655

Counties and schools receiving SRS payments

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County Management

Counties provide vital services to all Americans, from issuing birth certificates and marriage licenses to administering elections. Counties often build and maintain parks, libraries and cultural centers.

Counties are sources of innovation, exploring new opportunities to address challenges and piloting programs and initiatives that make residents’ lives better. While balancing numerous administrative responsibilities, counties deliver essential services to ensure healthy, vibrant and safe communities across the United States.

Services Include

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