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MI County Matters

You might not realize just how much counties do. From protecting public health and maintaining infrastructure to important record keeping, your county government plays an important role in your everyday life.

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County Oversight

Under the 1963 Michigan Constitution, county governments in Michigan continue their traditional role of being “agents” of state government to ensure delivery of services, such as courts, running elections and oversight of public functions. Counties are also local governments that deliver services specific to their jurisdictions based on the preference of local voters, such as parks and airports.

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The Board

The board of county commissioners is the governing body and the major policy approval center for county government. While the board acts as the principal legislative body for the county, its authority is more limited than what you would see with a state legislature or the U.S. Congress.

The board enacts the county budget, the role for which it probably is most well-known to the public.

A board’s size is determined by a county’s population, with a minimum of five commissioners. These officials are elected from single-member districts.

Other Elected Officials

While the county board oversees county government, the Michigan Constitution provides for the direct election of several departmental heads, such as the sheriff, the prosecutor, the clerk, the register of deeds, drain commissioner and treasurer. These officials lead their offices, but their budgets are set by the county board.

Most counties appoint an administrator to run day-to-day operations, but a handful of “home rule” counties choose to elect an executive.

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Our Security

From sheriff deputies patrolling the rural roads and byways to local courts handling the most heinous criminal cases, or most routine civil ones, county governments in Michigan ensure residents can be secure in their homes and communities, and properly seek redress under the law when conflicts arise. About $1 in every $3 a county spends is on Our Security via sheriff departments, jails and courts. In 2015, this meant more than $1.6 billion in investments.

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The most visible element of a county’s security program is the Sheriff. This individual, elected directly by county voters, is responsible for a department with the power to enforce criminal and traffic codes. The sheriff also is the administrator of the county jail. Counties also have prosecutors, medical examiners and animal control officers who work to protect Our Security.

County government, in coordination with the State Court Administrative Office, is responsible for the operations of all local courts – Circuit, District, Probate. Such “judicial” expenditures are, in fact, equal to what counties spend on sheriff departments. The local courts are the first review of more than 300,000 cases – ranging from murder to business lawsuits to family custody arrangements – each year.

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Our Families

Via local courts, veterans’ programs and social service offices, counties work each and every day to strengthen Our Families.

Counties ensure our children are reared in safe homes that are free from abuse. Through the foster care system, social service agents in local offices work with county-based courts to investigate cases, safeguard children from any threats and work with adults to bring about family unification whenever it is in the best interests of the child.

This commitment to family life extends to all ages, as county governments also operate extensive services for older residents. These services reached almost $100 million in 2015, covering such items as meals, counseling, adult day care and prevention of elder abuse.

County governments also provide for numerous amenities for families to enjoy such as parks, recreational facilities, cultural sites and library systems. Many of these amenities are the product of decisions by local voters to tax themselves for their enjoyment.

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Our Health

No single area of daily life occupies more of a county’s resources than protecting Our Health. Counties work to protect the public health via food inspections, immunizations, prevention of disease and environmental hazards and the improvement of mental health.

Almost half of Michigan’s counties also care directly for some residents via medical care facilities designed for the elderly.

Counties also, via drain commissioners and their staffs, work to protect community health and the health of the environment by overseeing the state and use of Michigan’s surface waters.

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Our Networks

Counties are responsible for ensuring the maintenance and improvement Our Networks, linking communities physically and electronically.

Via county road commissions and road departments, counties are responsible for more than 90,000 miles and nearly 6,000 bridges. This represents about 75 percent of the state’s entire road network.

In cases of emergency, residents can know that their 9-1-1 emergency system is in the capable hands of county coordinators who are highly trained and always seeking the next advance in technology.

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Our Vault

County clerks keep our records, memories and history safe in Our Vault. These records include everything from marriage licenses, vital records such as birth certificates, court records, business licensing and permits to the records of government itself such as the minutes of county boards of commissioners.

The county register of deeds, an elected position per the 1963 Michigan Constitution, is primarily concerned with maintaining the integrity of property records – residential, commercial, personal you name it. The register’s office also is a key support for businesses operating in the real estate world to facilitate property transactions. Note: Some counties have merged the register function with their clerk’s office.

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Our Wallet

County government, through the treasurer’s office, keeps a close watch on funds in Our Wallet that are collected by the county, and their eventual use. Treasurers also have responsibility for knowing when property taxes have been paid and when they have not.

Working in tandem with local units of government, counties ensure the flow of these funds – either to counties or other levels of government or back to taxpayers – is proper and correct. Part of this effort is through the state-mandated equalization department that helps determine how much value, in property, an individual community has. This value, of course, determines the ultimate amount of their tax bill.

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MI County Stats

Like state and local governments, counties use tax revenue to provide services for their residents. The following section highlights how counties spend tax dollars, how local revenues are collected and links to data and data sources. Click the map to learn about spending in your county, or scroll down to learn about property tax revenue.

Property Tax Revenue

Much of the funding used by Michigan's Counties come from local sources. The following charts show how property taxes, the largest source of funding for most counties, has changed over the past decade.

Data Download Center

All data used on this website were retreived from publicly available datasets. Tim Dolehanty from Ingham County compiled the data into the following spreadsheets. If you find an error or omission, please let us know by contacting us at

Tell our story

Michigan Association of Counties — MAC is an alliance of Michigan counties working to enhance county government through advocacy, shared services and education. Founded on Feb. 1, 1898, MAC is the only statewide organization dedicated to the representation of all county commissioners in Michigan.

We encourage county commissioners, leaders and others to share the information of MI County Matters with civic, school and other audiences. To assist these efforts, we have created downloadable documents with the key messages of our campaign:

Simply click on the links and you can download the document or print it. Check this page regularly, as we will be adding new documents as the campaign rolls on.

Additional Resources

Counties Matter — This informational website is maintained by the National Association of Counties, of which MAC is a member.

Citizens Research Council of Michigan — The CRC is a not-for-profit public affairs research organization that provides factual, unbiased, independent information on significant issues concerning state and local government organization and finance.

Center for Local Finance and Governance — The Michigan State University Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy was created to help communities thrive economically and culturally. The center works directly with communities to improve their fiscal health and help them thrive.

Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy — The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) conducts, supports and fosters applied academic research to inform local, state, and urban policy issues.

Contact Us

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