Reformed county government structure and service delivery performance: An integrated study of Florida counties

Alejandro Rodriguez, Florida International University


The most fundamental and challenging function of government is the effective and efficient delivery of services to local taxpayers and businesses. Counties, once known as the “dark continent” of American government, have recently become a major player in the provision of services. Population growth and suburbanization have increased service demands while the counties' role as service provider to incorporated residents has also expanded due to additional federal and state mandates. County governments are under unprecedented pressure and scrutiny to meet citizens' and elected officials' demands for high quality, and equitable delivery of services at the lowest possible cost while contending with anti-tax sentiments, greatly decreased state and federal support, and exceptionally costly and complex health and public safety problems. This study tested the reform government theory proposition that reformed structures of county government positively correlate with efficient service delivery. A county government reformed index was developed for this dissertation comprised of form of government, home-rule status, method of election, number of government jurisdictions, and number of elected officials. The county government reform index and a measure of relative structural fragmentation were used to assess their impact on two measures of service output: mean county road pavement condition and county road maintenance expenditures. The study's multi-level design triangulated results from different data sources and methods of analysis. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews of county officials, secondary archival sources, and a survey of 544 elected and appointed officials from Florida's 67 counties. The results of the three sources of data converged in finding that reformed Florida counties are more likely than unreformed counties to provide better road service and to spend less on road expenditures. The same results were found for unfragmented Florida counties. Because both the county government reform index and the fragmentation variables were specified acknowledging the reform theory as well as elements from the public-choice model, the results help explain contradicting findings in the urban service research. Therefore, as suggested by the corroborated findings of this dissertation, reformed as well as unfragmented counties are better providers of road maintenance service and do so in a less costly manner. These findings hold although the variables were specified to capture theoretical arguments from the consolidated as well as the public-choice theories suggesting a way to advance the debate from the consolidated-fragmented dichotomy of urban governance.

Subject Area

Public administration

Recommended Citation

Rodriguez, Alejandro, "Reformed county government structure and service delivery performance: An integrated study of Florida counties" (1999). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9952376.