In this three-part series, The Dallas Express dives into what the Dallas County Commissioners Court does. We spoke with J.J. Koch, who has been a member of the greater Dallas community for more than 18 years and serves as a commissioner for Dallas County District 2.
While born in New Jersey, Commissioner J.J. Koch came to Texas as fast as he could and has been serving the City of Dallas since graduating from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law.
He became a prosecutor for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Then, in private practice, Koch worked as an attorney for the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police.
Before being elected commissioner for Dallas County District 2 in 2018, Koch worked for William M. Woodall, P.C., selling commercial title insurance. Commissioner Koch is up for reelection this November.
“If we were in a rural county, you would know your county government very well. In urban counties, you know your city,” said Koch, later adding, “If you don’t know what your county commissioners court does, and you don’t know what the county functions are, you can’t hold them accountable.”
The commissioners court serves as the governing body of the county. Five members serve on it, four commissioners and one county judge.
“Just like the Railroad Commission [in Texas] has nothing to do with railroads. Your county judge [in Texas] is not [a judicial] judge. In [an] urban county, they’re the chief [executive]. Your commissioners have your legislative duties. That is where we sit as a body of five.”
As part of their responsibilities, Texas county commissioners manage roads and bridges within their districts and make budgeting decisions. The five-person body is responsible for adopting the county tax rate, approving county purchases, filling temporary vacancies in elected and appointed offices, setting all county salaries and benefits, and having sole authority to authorize contracts on behalf of the county.
Commissioner Koch broke down Dallas County residents’ tax bills and explained how county taxes compared to others.
He shared, “When you look at your property tax bill, we are, besides the college district, the smallest piece of your bill, roughly 23 cents per $100. Your ISD is usually your largest expense, followed by your city. So, you usually see those dollars broken down. If your tax bill is one dollar, 50 cents of it is your ISD, another 40 cents is your city, and the little slivers are your county.”
While most of the county’s taxes come from homeowners, the rest comes from car registration fees.
“When you buy your $100 registration sticker, $10 of that goes to the road and bridges regular operating fund, and what we do with that is make repairs,” Koch said.
Still, even as the county plays an understated role in taxing Dallas County residents, Koch made sure to tease the commissioners court’s “power of the purse strings” in supplementing other areas of county governance and matters of justice, both of which will be the subject of Part II in this series.