Generally a county is run by a County Administrator who is responsible to the elected County Commission. In some cases, an elected County Mayor may fill that role. The sheriff and other positions may be elected as well. Funding for the county comes from property taxes and sales taxes. Funding from the state and federal government is also a factor. The county government governs the areas that are not within a municipality’s borders, and it sometimes has a say in city affairs as well. In many cases, county government duties may overlap with city government duties. As the United States population continues to leave rural areas for cities, county governments experience varying degrees of financial and political decline or resurgence. U.S. counties today can be sorted into four loose categories: traditional, declined, rising, and merged.
Traditional counties are ones in which county government oversees a mostly rural area with smaller towns. These county governments may be more powerful politically than the cities within their boundaries. For these counties, budgets often are challenging due to the smaller tax base and the large geographical area. The declined county government, one which was once powerful but now suffers from political redundancy, is common where cities have expanded their borders, reducing rural lands, and increasing the city government’s financial and political power. When the city boundaries are limited by powerful suburbs, the county government may reemerge as the dominant political entity. After all, the suburban population provides a growing tax base. This rising county government becomes more like a city, providing more services and overseeing a larger budget. In some locales, cities and counties have merged. In these areas where urban and suburban boundaries have ceased to be meaningful, a single city/county government makes sense.