Nov 27, 2020

Drawing the line - Texas Counties

One might think that a home in the city of Dallas would naturally also be located in Dallas County. And one would wrong. 

Your home may be located in Dallas and likewise in Collin, Dallas, Denton or Rockwall County. For many people in Dallas-Fort Worth, their next-door neighbor could be in a different county. The folks across the street might be in a different school district as well. 

Convoluted boundaries can make for some interesting scenarios of where the kids go to school, who your elected officials are, which police department you call, and where you register your car. Texas has 254 counties, more than any other state. We also have more incorporated cities and more school districts than any other state. 

Imagine a map of D-FW counties, overlaid with city borders, and then place the school districts on top of that. Try not to get cross-eyed.

There is a reason county, city, and school district boundaries don’t match up. When the Republic of Texas was established, boundaries of counties were vague and not precise. Rivers or creeks often defined them. Eventually the Texas Constitution set out policies to establish more consistent size and shape for new counties. The rules evolved into county sizes of about 900 square miles with the goal to be as square as possible. Ideally, the county seat is located near the center of the county. 

When it comes to town and city limits, many area municipalities have consolidated or split over the years. Often the reasons are economic. Texas school districts are independent and do not necessarily follow city or county borders. Over time, some school districts might have merged into one, while others split into unique entities. These actions have resulted in boundaries that look like a jigsaw puzzle.

Several DFW subdivisions lie within two counties. When the neighborhood was developed from farm and ranch land, county representatives decided where to draw the lines between neighbors. They agreed on who would claim which homes – and who would tax them.

Why does this matter? While your county tax assessor may collect your property taxes, you actually are paying property taxes to your county, city, and school district. Often the county collects all of your property taxes, making it easier to pay with one payment. However, that is not the case in every county, city, or school district. 

Many Dallas area homeowners write two or more checks to different entities for their property taxes each year. Your taxing authorities determine more than who collects your taxes, the location of your local library, or the identity of the local dogcatcher. The county that collects your taxes also maintains your property records. They record your deed and keep ownership records.

Your county is where you look for information about a piece of real estate. When you need to know more, just follow the money. The sheriff may not pursue you past the county line, but the school, city, and county tax collectors will.
[where: 75230]

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