The state of Texas is divided into 254 counties, more than any other U.S. state. Texas was originally divided into municipalities, a unit of local government under Spanish and Mexican rule. When the Republic of Texas gained its independence in 1836, there were 23 municipalities, which became the original Texas counties. Many of these would later be divided into new counties. The most recent county to be created was Kenedy County in 1921. The most recent county to be organized was Loving County in 1931.
Each county is run by a commissioners court consisting of four elected commissioners (one from each of four precincts drawn based on population) and a county judge elected from all the voters of the county. In smaller counties, the county judge actually does perform judicial duties, but in larger counties the judge's role is limited to serving on the commissioners court. Certain officials, such as the sheriff and tax collector, are elected separately by the voters, but the commissioners court determines their office budgets, and sets overall county policy. All county elections are partisan.
Counties in Texas also have less legal power than cities or towns. While the counties have eminent domain power and control all unincorporated land within their boundaries, they have neither home rule authority nor zoning power. The county is responsible for providing essential services (except for fire and ambulance, which are often done by volunteer fire departments).
Unlike other states, Texas does not allow for consolidated city-county governments. Cities and counties (as well as other political entities) are permitted to enter "interlocal agreements" to share services (as an example, a city and a school district may enter into agreements with the county whereby the county bills for and collects property taxes for the city and school district; thus, only one tax bill is sent instead of three). School districts are independent of county and city government (with the exception of the Stafford district, which is city controlled).
The Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code, which is used by the United States government to uniquely identify states and counties, is provided with each entry. Texas' code is 48, which when combined with any county code would be written as 48XXX. The FIPS code for each county links to census data for that county.
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