County Government

The county is a subdivision of the state, usually -- but not always -- containing two or more townships and several villages. New York City is so large that it is divided into five separate boroughs, each a county in its own right: The Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. On the other hand, Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is both an urbanized and suburban area, governed by a unitary county administration.

In most counties, one town or city is designated as the county seat where the government offices are located and where the board of commissioners or supervisors meets. In small counties, boards are chosen by the county as a whole; in the larger ones, supervisors represent separate districts or townships. The board levies taxes, borrows and appropriates money, fixes the salaries of county employees, supervises elections, builds and maintains highways and bridges, and administers national, state and county welfare programs.