Required County Services

The Idaho Constitution establishes the fundamental legal framework for county government in Idaho. It prescribes the elected county officials and their terms of office; places limitations on county indebtedness; contains detailed provisions on county boundaries; and provides for optional forms of county government.

Idaho law provides a detailed, legal framework for county government, describes the powers of county officials and enumerates the functions that counties may perform. Idaho does not have a county home-rule provision in its Constitution, thus county officials have less flexibility in establishing new programs and procedures than do county officials in county home-rule states.

Counties Versus Cities

Idaho counties, like counties in other states, have a dual function. They serve as an arm of the state government in administering elections, enforcing state laws and performing many other state-mandated functions. They also serve as a unit of local government which has responsibilities in meeting the needs of its own citizens in 

  • Agricultural services
  • Health
  • Parks and recreation
  • Planning
  • Public works
  • Welfare

Cities, on the other hand, are voluntary organizations and are created in order to enhance services to citizens and provide better and highly livable communities. Regardless of the existence of cities, counties are still obligated to provide a number of services.


The following is a non-exclusive list of many of those required services. Most are supported by either property taxes, fees and state shared revenues or a combination of resources.

Public Safety (Law Enforcement / Courts / Prosecution)

  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Drug Enforcement Programs
  • Issue Drivers Licenses
  • Maintain and Operate Court Room/Law Library/Law Clerks
  • Maintain and Operate Jail
  • Maintain and Operate Juvenile Detention Facility
  • Mandatory Sentences
  • Mandatory Training of All Law Enforcement Officers
  • Mandatory Training of Probation and Juvenile Detention Officers
  • Patrol (On and Off-road)
  • Prosecute and Defend Criminals
  • Provide for Probation Services (Adults/Juveniles)
  • Provide Programs for Juveniles
  • Service of Civil Process

Health Care & Social Services

  • Ambulance
  • County Hospital Operation
  • Medical and Non-Medical Indigent Care
  • Public Health Districts

Other Required Functions

  • Administers certain estates when others will not
  • Collect taxes/fees/special assessments for other entities
  • Conducting Elections
  • County Road and Bridge Operations
  • GIS and Mapping parcels
  • Noxious Weeds
  • Pay portion of Community College Tuition
  • Planning/Zoning
  • Process passports
  • Recording of all legal documents
  • Solid Waste Collection/Disposal
  • Value all Property
  • Various Federal Programs (Clean Air/Water, etc.)
  • Vehicle registration and titling for State - can be contracted out
  • Water Systems

The following is a non-inclusive list of non-mandatory county functions of which some are and some are not shared with cities.

  • Agriculture Extension
  • Airports
  • Economic Development
  • Fairs
  • Historical Society/Museum
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Senior Programs
  • Snowmobile and Waterways
  • Soil Conservation
  • Veterans Services