Pillow Talk - County Line

Posted By: Perry Pillow Legislative Updates ,

Until recently, aside from registering your vehicles and paying property taxes to the tax assessor’s office, few urban Texans knew what county government was or did. The COVID-19 pandemic and claims of election irregularities brought a renewed emphasis on the power, function, and importance of the Texas county government. From countywide masks mandates to election audits and rent relief to redistricting, officials in Texas’ 254 counties were thrust into the spotlight. 

AATC members own and operate residential rental property in nine, north-central Texas counties: Erath, Hood, Jack, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell, Tarrant, and Wise. Erath, Jack, Palo Pinto, and Somervell remain rural; but Tarrant and its neighbors Hood, Johnson, Parker, and Wise are experiencing rapid population growth and the challenges and opportunities that accompany it.

While the geography and populations vary, each of these counties provide similar government services.  County sheriff departments handle public safety, jails, and emergency services.  Tax assessors collect property taxes and register vehicles.  The county clerk’s office ensures that all vital records including real estate deeds are properly maintained.  The clerk’s office also provides administrative staff to the county courts. Public health officials are county employees.  Counties build roads and bridges and hold elections.

Texas counties are governed by a commissioners court comprised of a county judge and four commissioners. It is called a court, but in reality, the commissioner's court is a legislative/executive body much like a city council. In fact, most county officials/department heads are elected. The district attorney, sheriff, county clerk, tax assessor, justices of the peace, county court at law judges, and constables do not work for the commissioner's court.  However, it is the commissioner's court that controls the budgets for all county departments.

A couple of items of interest to rental property owners/operators:

  1. Every city in Texas is in a county, but not all county land is in a city.  Counties in Texas do not have land-use authority (a.k.a. zoning). So, if you own land that is in the county but not in a city, you can build what you want how you want;   
  2. The tax assessor collects all the property taxes and then distributes them to the various government entities within the county;
  3. Most justices of the peace courts and constables' offices are located within county buildings (courthouses or sub courthouses); and
  4. Tarrant County’s office of Housing and Community Development is a long-time partner with AATC on issues involving housing affordability.   

2022 MAY 7th MUNICIPAL ELECTION RESULTS –AATC PAC-supported candidates Bowie Hogg (Arlington) and Ron Jensen (Grand Prairie) won their contests in the May 7th municipal elections. Hogg got 55% in his race for the open Arlington city-wide, council district 7 seat, and Jensen (88%) easily won reelection as Grand Prairie mayor. AATC looks forward to working with councilman Hogg and Mayor Jensen. In other significant local elections, Alan Blaylock (52%) defeated three other candidates to win the district 4 seat on the Fort Worth City Council vacated by Cary Moon who ran unsuccessfully for state representative. Long Pham (46%) and Albert Parra (36%) are in a run-off for the open Arlington city-wide, council district 6 seat. AATC friends Helen Moise and Raul Gonzalez were unopposed in their Arlington city council races.

MAY 24 RUN-OFF ELECTIONS AATC SUPPORTED CANDIDATES – AATC and TAA are supporting incumbents Stephanie Klick (R – HD91) and Glenn Rogers (R – HD61) as well as candidate Laura Hill (R – HD93) in the May 24thprimary run-off elections. 

FORT WORTH CODE AND CRIME – AATC is working with Fort Worth councilmember and staff to seek solutions to address substandard and high-crime multifamily properties within the city. AATC recently met with city code officials to discuss updates to the city’s apartment inspection program.

FWISD STUDENT MOBILITY – AATC is working closely with the school, state, and local officials as well as community leaders to explore ways to reduce student mobility for those FWISD students that live in multifamily properties.  An FWISD study shows that the average elementary student in East Fort Worth moves more than four times in five years.