Counties and cities do many things to improve the quality of life for everyone in California. Each one of California’s 38 million residents lives within the boundaries of one of the state’s 58 counties. Over 31 million people – more than 80 percent – live in one of California’s 478 cities.
Counties and cities share similar roles in providing a vast array of municipal services to residents. These services include public safety (police, fire and emergency services), land use planning, parks and recreation, social services, and the justice system. Those local governments also provide important facilities, including roads, flood protection, sewers, water, solid waste disposal and other utilities. Counties have an additional role as a delivery channel for many state services, such as foster care, public health care, jails and elections.
How do counties and cities pay for such services and facilities? The short answer is they rely on a variety of revenues. The actual mix varies between counties and cities, based on the roles they play in our system of government. The combination and level of revenues also varies from county to county and city to city.