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County government was established in 1771 with five counties: Cheshire, Grafton, Hillsborough, Rockingham, and Strafford. The additional 5 counties we have today, for a total of 10, are : Belknap, Carroll, Coos, Merrimack, and Sullivan.


County government is structured as a multi-branch form of government. The 3 county commissioners are the executive branch, which is responsible for the day-to-day operations in both fiscal and policy matters. The county delegation, made up of the elected members of the House of Representatives from that county, is responsible for the budget appropriations for the operation of county government.


The original county functions were infrastructure, recording of land records, law enforcement and judicial, though overtime, county government functions have evolved. The courts are now a state system and infrastructure are either state or municipal. County governments today are financially responsible for some of the highest cost services provided in the state: long-term care and corrections.


County government is responsible, under state law, for funding the long-term care and support for those individuals who are Medicaid eligible financially and also medically eligible for nursing home level of care who reside in a county nursing facility or private nursing facility or cared for at home under the Choices for Independence program. In addition, counties must operate county jails (or contract with other facilities for placement of county inmates, male or female) where  inmates are incarcerated either pretrial or under sentence. 


County functions also include the funding and operation of the offices of the constitutionally elected Register of Deeds, County Attorney, Sheriff and County Treasurer. Other functions that individual counties are engaged in differ county to county across the state and depend upon local decision making by commissioners and/or the delegation if funding is required. Most counties also have Human Resources Offices which oversee personnel issues relating to county employees statewide (full-time, part-time, per-diem, and on-call).

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