While counties are a very stable form of government, the state and federal government have given them many added responsibilities through the years. Finding the most cost effective ways to provide services and still keep property taxes low is an urgent goal of county government. The growth of social services is one example where counties must stretch budgets in order to meet requirements. This decade many changes will take place as counties try to provide more services with fewer dollars. The task is especially difficult for counties with smaller populations and depreciating tax bases.
Consolidating services and automation are two ways that help. Many counties are now combining or sharing services with cities or other counties. Social services, road equipment and maintenance, law enforcement and elections, are just a few of the areas where working together pay off. The 1993 Tool Chest legislation enables local governments to do more together. The legislation allows citizens to decide how their local government should be structured. Through joint powers agreements, restructuring through petition or resolution, and advisory study committees, people can decide what their counties need.
In 1991 all 53 register of deeds offices were linked to the Secretary of State's office. County road departments are now computerizing to develop better planning and fiscal management. The county administrative offices are also striving toward more efficient management systems. Determining long term automation needs through technology planning will help counties effectively prepare for the future.
Elective offices are changing too. In 1993, the county superintendent of schools became an appointed office. Another big change in 1995 when the new streamlined state judicial system eliminated the office of county judge and increase the number of district judges serving the state. The change in the judicial system may also effect the clerk of court. Currently county clerks are appointed and district clerks are elected on county ballots. How these offices will be affected has yet to be worked out.
County participation broadened in recent years as officials realize how decision made at the state and national level affect local government. As a result, many officials are active in issues beyond their county lines. Contributing to discussions as policies are developed and set will help ensure more fairness of property tax payers.
The role of counties is likely to continue growing in importance because they bridge the gap between urban and rural areas of the state. Change helps counties stay strong and flexible to meet the need of tomorrow and continue to provide the basic framework for our society.
North Dakota Association of Counties
NDACo represents the needs of county government in legislative matters and acts as a liaison between counties. A number of programs designed to benefit counties have been developed and administered by NDACo. Working closely with Congress and the National Association of counties, NDACo also alerts county officials to national developments that impact county government.
NDACo Mission Statement
The North Dakota Association of Counties hall provide leadership for change, to assure fair, effective, efficient government through education and training, communication and a strong unified legislative effort for the good of all counties.