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Thread: Local government consolidation

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Local government consolidation

    For years now, school districts in many states have consolidated. Especially in America's rural areas. Do you think that we will ever see this for local governments, namely city governments?

    I have been trying to work with our some towns that are near our town of 3,000 people. Each of the smaller towns near us is within 10 miles and has under 1,000 people. Together we could have a greater service offering for residents and more efficiency and I do not think local control would be lost to any great extent. Yet, this has been resisted by these towns in the name of local control. Even when some of them are on the edge of becoming unincorporated.

    Its not popular for this to be forced from the state level, yet I think it would improve local government services to many areas.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    In 1982 Battle Creek City and Battle Creek Township merged. Battle Creek went from a town of 35k to 53k overnight. The city voted overwhelming in favor of the measure while the township begrudgingly supported the measure...for obvious reasons. The motivator was the Kellogg who pushed the measure and convinced many of the businesses in the area to donate their tax savings to the new city for economic development. If the voters rejected the merger then Kellogg said they would consider relocating to a larger city, like Chicago.

    Overall Battle Creek has greatly benefited from the merger. Its taxes were lowered, expanded services to a wider population and the money set aside in now a $12.5 loan fund used to help local businesses grow, attract new ones and most importantly help entrepreneurs get started.

    Most states have stringent annexation laws and any change will bring out the NIMBYs. Is there anyone talking about this merger in the area?
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    This has happened in many areas of Canada and to places of various sizes.

    If you are interested a few to look at that have happened recently (last 10 years):

    Miramichi, New Brunswick - included unincoporated areas -
    Rothesay, NB
    Toronto, ON
    Arran-Elderslie, Bruce County, ON
    Brockton, ON
    Prince Edward County, ON
    Kingston, ON
    Montreal, PQ
    Halifax, NS
    Cape Breton

    Here is a radio link to this topic http://www.cbc.ca/maritimenoon/features.html scroll down to "is bigger better?"
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Battle Creek merger. Kelloggs threatens to move if the township and city dont merge. Democracy by the corporate gun. Whether it worked out or not. Kelloggs just lost my business.

  5. #5
    The Montreal mergers have been disastrous, a real mess. It just shows that if you take lots of inefficient, corrupt municipalities and merge them together, you get an even worse inefficient, corrupt megacity.

    A similar merger on the south shore suburbs of Montreal has gone so bad that local government has all but been eliminated by the provincial government and replaced by a prefecture.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I'm very skeptical of these city/county or city/suburbs mergers that promise "win-win" situations, primarily because they're usually promoted by politicians who are looking to build empires and business elites seeking to keep control. This was the case with a proposed "merger" between Buffalo, NY, and it's county, Erie. In my opinion it was a power grab that would have effectively disenfranchised Buffalo residents without providing them with any benefits. The County Executive (calling him a "crook" is too kind) would have gained control of city patronage while the upper class white business elite who have a lot of say in the city through a group called the "Buffalo Niagara Partnership" would have effectively prevented the city of Buffalo from electing its first Black mayor. I think this was less about racism, though, and more about the fact that any Black mayor of Buffalo wouldn't be beholden to the "old boys' network".

    Mergers of personnel intensive services like police forces hasn't worked very well in WNY (Western New York -- 8 westernmost counties in NYS). They seem to provide the most potential for savings, but the disparity in pay scales and benefits is a big stumbling block. The merger of village and town police forces in some of Buffalo's growing suburbs haven't delivered the promised savings, and in one case, costs actually rose (part-timers were converted to full timers, and therefore not only got paid more, but qualified for full benefits).

    I think that a better model is the cooperative merging of services rather than political mergers. We have this in southern Chautauqua County to some extent with the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. The BPU provides very low cost electricity as well as garbage, sewer, and water services to the City of Jamestown, the village of Falconer and the town of Ellicott. It also provides water to the Town of Busti where public water mains have been built. Other towns have looked into the possibility of joining the BPU for services, especially the low cost electric, but the big impediment is the cost of purchasing the assets of the local private utility companies.

    In Erie County, the Erie County Water Authority successfully provides water for most of suburban towns. The City of Buffalo provides its own water but has toyed with the idea of joining the ERWA.
    .

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    This is studied often enough in Wisconsin. The problem is tax rate disparities, and their is usually a "winner" and "loser", with one community's residents taking a tax hit, but getting more services for it. Not particlarly popular amongst the elctorate.

    To help resolve this we have new (yet untested) statutes that allow a post-consolidated community to levy different tax rates for a period of time, allowing for gradual equalization.

  8. #8
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Don't forget the impact of lost identity, that means a lot for small town folk. The school district thing wasn't an easy thing in that regard either.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  9. #9
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    This is studied often enough in Wisconsin. The problem is tax rate disparities, and their is usually a "winner" and "loser", with one community's residents taking a tax hit, but getting more services for it. Not particlarly popular amongst the elctorate.

    To help resolve this we have new (yet untested) statutes that allow a post-consolidated community to levy different tax rates for a period of time, allowing for gradual equalization.
    I'm trying to think of the most recent municipal merger in Wisconsin, but there have been quite a few since statehood. Several in the second half of the 20th Century include City of Green Bay-Preble Twp (mid-1960s); City of West Bend-Village of Burton; Milton-Milton Junction (now City of Milton); City of Milwaukee-Granville Twp and Lake Twp and the Village of Menomonee Falls-Menomonee Twp.

    Two that I am aware of that are firmly coming up in the next 10-15 years both involve the City of Madison, as adjacent Madison and Blooming Grove townships have agreed to join the City of Madison in staged annexations over that time.

    From what I am also aware of, Wisconsin leads all 50 USA states in the number of separate units of local government (below the state level) with taxing authority to population ratio and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the state is getting less and less able to afford to support them all through state shared revenue and aid payments. Each one has its own bureaucracy, most have their own sets of elected officials (the rest have appointed governing bodies) and each of them has to be paid. They also have overlapping jurisdictions with boundary lines that often make little logical sense (the Appleton area, total population 210-220K, has over 50 of them and this is repeated in most of the metros of the state) and it is often impossible to tell when one crosses from one to another without a good, up-to-date map.

    There are also several inter-municipal services agreements just here in the Appleton area. For example, the adjacent Villages of Little Chute and Kimberly merged their police departments about 10-15 years ago (the adjacent city of Kaukauna and the tiny adjacent Village of Combind Locks both declined) and the adjacent Cities of Menasha and Neenah merged their fire departments about 5 years ago and both have worked exceedingly well. More such agreements are continually bantered about.

    But despite that, local government here in Wisconsin is a REAL mess.

    Quote Originally posted by nemo31 View post
    Battle Creek merger. Kelloggs threatens to move if the township and city dont merge. Democracy by the corporate gun. Whether it worked out or not. Kelloggs just lost my business.
    From what I am aware of, Kelloggs was in need of a much bigger corporate headquarters building at that time and they were beyond fed up with the constant quarreling between the city and the township that was getting so bad that it was costing the area bigtime in the economic development department. The merger ended that quarreling, getting everyone to sing off of the same page in the hymnal, and the merged city has been on a roll ever since. It has worked out so well that I am very surprized that it has not been repeated elsewhere in the state.

    Mike
    Last edited by mgk920; 10 Nov 2006 at 2:28 AM.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    I'm trying to think of the most recent municipal merger in Wisconsin, but there have been quite a few since statehood.
    It's been studied a bit.

    City of Pewaukee - Village of Pewaukee
    Town of Vernon - Village of Big Bend
    Town of Brookfield - City of Brookfield

    are the most recent ones I can recall.

    When the Town of Caledonia incorporated as a Village, all of its independent utility districts had to be roled into one municipal operation, a consolidation of taxing district of sorts.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    in Maine, we have an extremely large area of the state, far north, that is unincorporated - known by many as the territories - they track the towns in the papers that vote to join in and it's a vote in favor by them, but they remark how sad they feel that they lost their town, in their words, though they knew it was for the best

    I think it's sad but I don't have a solution

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    in Maine, we have an extremely large area of the state, far north, that is unincorporated - known by many as the territories - they track the towns in the papers that vote to join in and it's a vote in favor by them, but they remark how sad they feel that they lost their town, in their words, though they knew it was for the best

    I think it's sad but I don't have a solution
    This sounds like the area is being depopulated like some parts of the Great Plains.

    I think some areas of the western Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas are now considered unpopulated by the US Census bureau.

    Here in the Southern Tier New York and in neighborhing northern PA, there is a lot of concern about population declines in the small cities, towns, and rural areas that aren't within easy commute of big cities, especially among young people. While economics provide an easy answer, the fact is that these areas have never really offered much attraction for college educated young people, so there are strong social and cultural causes for this depopulation as well as economic ones.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    It's been studied a bit.

    City of Pewaukee - Village of Pewaukee
    Town of Vernon - Village of Big Bend
    Town of Brookfield - City of Brookfield

    are the most recent ones I can recall.
    Have those three pairs actually merged or are they just talking obout it? ISTR that there is still a 'Village of Pewaukee' and a surrounding 'City of Pewaukee' (the former township), as well as separate Brookfield city and township. I do know that the two Pewaukees have talked merger in the recent past and that their current separate status is a source of constant confusion with the public. What would ultimately happen with those islands of Pewaukee (city) that the City of Waukesha completely surrounds?

    In a reverse sense, a couple of years ago there was a referendum about dissolving the Village of Eagle, WI, which would have effectively merged it with its surrounding township, but village's voters rejected it.

    Mike

  14. #14
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    There a couple of examples where large cities have merged with their surrounding counties. Indianapolis and Marion County and Nashville and Davidson County to name a couple of the top of my head. Back home in Omaha, a merger between the City of Omaha and Douglas County is high on Mayor Fahey's agenda. Perhaps, you can follow the progress or lack there of on the city's website, www.ci.omaha.ne.us or on the Omaha World-Herald's website, www.omaha.com
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
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  15. #15
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Philadelphia and San Francisco merged with their respective counties a long time ago. Charlotte and Mecklenberg County, NC have basically become one, with many services including police and public schools shared between the two. To a lesser extent, Miami and Miami-Dade County, FL are in a similar situation. To complicate matters, there is a mayor of the City of Miami and a mayor of Miami-Dade County.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I'm I missing something, or wouldn't it make sense to just merge services, start service districts (fire districts, sewer districts, water districts, library districts, etc) to share services, but keep seperate municipal identities. Where I live, we are in a fire district (called Harlem Roscoe Fire District, after the townships they serve) that covers portions of a couple of cities, and a lot of unincorporated area. We are in a library district (called North Suburban Library district) that covers about 3 different cities and some unincorporated area. We are in a water district (called North Park Water) that covers portions of about three different cities, and we are in a sewer district (called Rock River Water Reclamation) that serves nearly the entire county.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cch View post
    I'm I missing something, or wouldn't it make sense to just merge services, start service districts (fire districts, sewer districts, water districts, library districts, etc) to share services, but keep seperate municipal identities. Where I live, we are in a fire district (called Harlem Roscoe Fire District, after the townships they serve) that covers portions of a couple of cities, and a lot of unincorporated area. We are in a library district (called North Suburban Library district) that covers about 3 different cities and some unincorporated area. We are in a water district (called North Park Water) that covers portions of about three different cities, and we are in a sewer district (called Rock River Water Reclamation) that serves nearly the entire county.
    It depends. Here in Maryland, it seems to work. There are very few municipalities in Maryland compared to its population. Mostly everything is County oriented, public safety, schools, library, water, etc... There is a County Executive for the 5 urban counties, Baltimore (Baltimore City is independent, and is treated as a county), Harford, Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Howard, and Montgomery. Baltimore City has a mayor-council government. The remaining counties have a county council.
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  18. #18

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    No one here seems to be discussing the possibility of suburban mergers. I have a theory that inner ring suburbs will decline very sharply as urban neighborhoods and far-out exurbs continue to grow. Older suburbs will not have the capacity to deal with their issues, and I think many will be forced to consider merging.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cch View post
    I'm I missing something, or wouldn't it make sense to just merge services, start service districts (fire districts, sewer districts, water districts, library districts, etc) to share services, but keep seperate municipal identities. Where I live, we are in a fire district (called Harlem Roscoe Fire District, after the townships they serve) that covers portions of a couple of cities, and a lot of unincorporated area. We are in a library district (called North Suburban Library district) that covers about 3 different cities and some unincorporated area. We are in a water district (called North Park Water) that covers portions of about three different cities, and we are in a sewer district (called Rock River Water Reclamation) that serves nearly the entire county.
    That's the way it is here in Chautauqua County. The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities provides water, electric service, and garbage services to residents of both the city of Jamestown and the town of Ellicott (which surrounds the city on three sides). The BPU also provides bulk water for the town of Busti. School and fire districts also overlap city/town and even county boundaries.

    I think that too frequently, the advocates of "regionalism", ie, local government consolidation, have ulterior motives that are quite separate from the goals of improving efficiency and saving money. There's been a lot of this in the Buffalo, NY area about 60 miles north of here where virtually all consolidation "plans" are aimed at simply reducing the number of elected local officials rather than in cutting costs of services.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock View post
    No one here seems to be discussing the possibility of suburban mergers. I have a theory that inner ring suburbs will decline very sharply as urban neighborhoods and far-out exurbs continue to grow. Older suburbs will not have the capacity to deal with their issues, and I think many will be forced to consider merging.
    you make a good argument. That's one of the reasons why the Maryland systems works well, because you don't have a suburb vs. suburb competition for jobs. You will find county vs. county or Baltimore vs. suburbs or Baltimore suburbs for suburban MD suburbs of DC competition.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
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    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally posted by cch View post
    I'm I missing something, or wouldn't it make sense to just merge services, start service districts (fire districts...
    Ha! Just try to merge fire districts, especially if there are a lot of volunteers! Fire departments are VERY territorial.

  22. #22
    There was a recent Buffalo News editorial pointing out the extreme number excess of elected officials in Erie County compared to other places. I do not have the numbers but the excess was shockingly extreme. This excess is mostly concentrated in the suburbs. There is a grave need to reduce government in WNY but the power centers in the wealthy burbs are not going to give up their cash cow.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian urbanrenewal's avatar
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    It's interesting to see discussions like this about municipal boundaries - in my home state here in Australia we went from 210 municipalities to 79 in one year.

    It was all for efficiency, of course. Having a hard-headed state government helped. At the time I was horrified, and upset at the loss of identity and all that sort of thing. But after working in these new areas some things become clear:

    small areas are not finiacially self-supporting (and there's no reson any other taxpayer should prop them up)
    small areas can stagnate, bound up in councillor so and so's grand visions, forgetting that they are a part of a bigger entity
    re-arranged areas had to completely re-do their planning schemes (whic produced considerable innovation and standardisation across the state)

    There are pros and cons, that's for sure, but I can't see why a small local area which can't pay the bills should continue to exist.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    In NJ, state government administrations have repeatedly preached on the need for municipalities to merge services in order to become more efficient and thus lower property taxes. NJ has the highest property taxes in the nation, a phenomenon which forces many seniors out of their homes and even to other states and contributes to the overall high cost of living. Yet towns tend to be very resistant to the idea of mergers. "Home rule" is a highly valued aspect there. I just don't get it. Many of these towns are just continuous suburban sprawl with no obvious boundary. They just butt up against each other in the densely populated northeast part of the state. Their identitities exist only in their names and governmental institutions. Property taxes are always at the top of the list of gripes, but real solutions never seem to develop.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  25. #25
    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater View post
    <snip> NJ has the highest property taxes in the nation, a phenomenon which forces many seniors out of their homes and even to other states and contributes to the overall high cost of living. <snip> Many of these towns are just continuous suburban sprawl with no obvious boundary. They just butt up against each other in the densely populated northeast part of the state. Their identitities exist only in their names and governmental institutions.
    My mom left when she was 75 and moved to NH because ... of the property taxes.

    I always thought it was amusing that No. Plainfield was in Somerset County; Plainfield in Union County; and, So. Plainfield in Middlesex, though aside from a small brook between N and P, there's almost no distinguishing the three. Made no sense to me whatever.
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