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Thread: Push to consolidate local governments (article)?

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Push to consolidate local governments (article)?

    Anyone else catch the article in the November, 2008 issue of Governing regarding a push in some states to cut back on the quantities of local governments within their borders?

    http://www.governing.com/articles/0811consol.htm

    "Attempted Merger

    November 2008

    By JOSH GOODMAN

    States are pushing localities to consolidate — and localities are pushing back.

    Leon Duff retired as a Maine school superintendent in 2001, but not for good. In the seven years since, he's been called back into school administration again and again. Most recently, when the superintendent in Monmouth had to step down for health reasons, Duff, now 73, took the job — reluctantly. "I've retired three times," he says. "Don't you think I'd learn?"

    As it happened, though, Duff had stumbled into the perfect job for his semi-retirement. In most of the country, a superintendent of schools faces marathon hours of frenetic work. In much of Maine, including Monmouth, it's a part-time job. Duff works a couple of days a week.

    The reason is simple enough: Duff oversees only three schools. All told, those schools — kindergarten through 12th grade — teach roughly 750 students. As a result, there's only so much work for a superintendent to do.

    That's all about to change. Monmouth is merging with four other school districts. The Maine legislature, at the urging of Governor John Baldacci, last year approved a law that's heralded as the most significant overhaul of Maine's public schools in 50 years. The law will force each district to include at least 2,500 students, except in isolated areas, where the minimum will be 1,000. Districts that don't meet those requirements will have to consolidate or face cuts in state aid. The goal is to reduce Maine's 290 school administrative units to 80 or fewer."

    (see link for rest of article)

    It also mentions a push in Indiana to eliminate their townships (1008 of them), something that Wisconsin would also be very wise to do (we have over 1900 of them!) to help close a $4G+ state budget shortfall this upcoming biennium.

    Any thoughts?



    Mike

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    I am all for mergers and reductions for municipal governments, especially getting rid of townships in Midwestern states. Their roll can easily be absorbed by the county or the township could incorporate into a city.

    As for schools it should be a case by case basis. I wrote a paper for my masters program on school consolidation and the economies of scale don't tend to last long periods of time, and if a higher preforming district merges with a less performing the standards tend to get dragged down not brought up. Other down sides is local control and flexibility.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Here in Indiana we have the Kernan-Shepard Report -

    Governor’s Charge to the Commission
    The purpose of the blue-ribbon Commission on Local Government Reform (hereafter The Commission) is to develop recommendations to reform and restructure local government in Indiana in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations and reduce its costs to Hoosier taxpayers.
    http://indianalocalgovreform.iu.edu/

    Numerous news articles about.

    Was a referendum on today's ballot - eliminate township assessor's office & function consolidating them under the county assessor.

    We already have some consolidated city-county offices -
    health, dispatch, purchasing, ema, p&z, building.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  4. #4
    Hoosiers are not voting to eliminate the township form of government -- it's not on the ballot. The question on the ballot, rather, is limited to townships with 15,000 recorded parcels or more and consists of a Yes or No question as to whether those duties should be transferred to the County Assessor.. IIRC, it affects only about 100 townships across the state (out of ~1008).

    I support transferring the duties. If elimination of Townships were a ballot issue, I'd likely support it as well.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    They have tried unsuccessfully twice in the last 5 years to consolidate Bernalillo County and Albuquerque (rejected by the voters, but closer the second time). The arguments for are reduced costs and improved efficiencies. The arguments against center on fears that the City's agenda will prevail at the expense of the County and that there will be jobs lost as the new government streamlines. Personally, I voted against it both times, but it is certainly a complex issue and I came to my decision after careful thought.

    One thing they have done, and which I expect may continue into other areas, is to create a new Water Utility Authority. Rather than two separate water authorities (we're talking about water to homes, business and hydrants as well as sewer form these locations. Storm water management is a separate agency) we now have one that is run by a combo of County Commissioners and City Councilors. In this area, I think a regional water management and planning body is a wise move because of the seriousness attached to it, especially here in a high desert region. Pitting local municipalities against one another would definitely happen at the expense of citizens and our collective future.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I did a consolidation study about 2 years ago. The larger of the two would have lower taxes, but the smaller would have, for the average home, paid $175 a year more.

    Study shelved.

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post

    Study shelved.
    Isn't that what you are supposed to do with studies?
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    "I bought out in the county to get away from your stupid big city (communist)codes. By the way, when are you going to extend water and sewer out here?"

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Hoosiers are not voting to eliminate the township form of government -- it's not on the ballot. The question on the ballot, rather, is limited to townships with 15,000 recorded parcels or more and consists of a Yes or No question as to whether those duties should be transferred to the County Assessor.. IIRC, it affects only about 100 townships across the state (out of ~1008).

    I support transferring the duties. If elimination of Townships were a ballot issue, I'd likely support it as well.
    Any word on how the vote turned out on this one?

    Mike

  10. #10
    Hoosiers voted to transfer the duties of the Township Assessors to County Assessors in 31 of 43 places where it was on the ballot including here in my little piece of paradise.

    The referendum question was poorly worded, IMO, and led to a lot of confusion. Still, I'm personally pleased with the results here.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Hoosiers voted to transfer the duties of the Township Assessors to County Assessors in 31 of 43 places where it was on the ballot including here in my little piece of paradise.

    The referendum question was poorly worded, IMO, and led to a lot of confusion. Still, I'm personally pleased with the results here.
    Breakdown of the vote in my fair county according to unofficial results from the County clerk's office -
    Pigeon Township 4,282 yes and 4,085 no;
    Center Township 10,321 yes and 6,371 no;
    Knight Township 15,456 yes and 8,921 no.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Consolidation is a non-starter around here, at least since Boston stopped annexing in the late 1800's. There's also no unincorporated land in the whole state (although some of it probably could be.) I remember moving to the midwest and being shocked at how malleable municipal boundaries were. Around here you'd think someone was threatening murder if they propose merging municipalities. I think there was talk of slightly moving a city line between Boston and Needham a while back to accommodate a redevelopment proposal (Stop and Shop warehouse?) and that seemed so radical.

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    Consolidation is a non-starter around here, at least since Boston stopped annexing in the late 1800's. There's also no unincorporated land in the whole state (although some of it probably could be.) I remember moving to the midwest and being shocked at how malleable municipal boundaries were. Around here you'd think someone was threatening murder if they propose merging municipalities. I think there was talk of slightly moving a city line between Boston and Needham a while back to accommodate a redevelopment proposal (Stop and Shop warehouse?) and that seemed so radical.
    The one in Massachusetts that makes me scratch my head is that little restaurant that is located on the outside 'point' of that hairpin curve on the MA 2 hill just east of North Adams - the restaurant is on one Town while the rest of the road on that hill is in another. I've always wondered about how hard it would be to adjust the border to put it into that other Town to make services more efficient.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    This needs to be looked at on a service by service basis. Some services make more sense on a regional basis. EMS for example because of the administrative and training burdens you see today. That is difficult for many smaller communities. Police are just the opposite. You want officers who know the town.

    I do agree regarding what was said about townships in the Midwest. Here in Iowa they only have 3 functions: rural cemeteries, Fire & EMS, and fence line disputes. The trustees almost never do the latter anymore. Generally the townships pay the closest towns fire department for protection. They just contract with a lawn care company for the cemeteries. EMS would be best served on a county basis here. It is in Johnson County (Iowa City) and I believe allows for a higher level of service to the public. With GIS and GPS fence line disputes no longer need adjudicators really and the counties could easily use their public works to take care of the cemeteries. As for city-city or city-county mergers I agree there would not be a whole lot of savings. You are still providing the same manpower hours with maybe a little less administration, but the administrative cost may not actually be lower.

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    Consolidation is a non-starter around here, at least since Boston stopped annexing in the late 1800's. There's also no unincorporated land in the whole state (although some of it probably could be.) I remember moving to the midwest and being shocked at how malleable municipal boundaries were. Around here you'd think someone was threatening murder if they propose merging municipalities. I think there was talk of slightly moving a city line between Boston and Needham a while back to accommodate a redevelopment proposal (Stop and Shop warehouse?) and that seemed so radical.
    I could have sworn there was an article recently in the Boston Globe about a proposed merger between two communities, with a study that the state had agreed to fund, but I can't find it now.

    I had the same reaction moving to North Carolina from upstate NY in the mid-1980s. How could land be unincorporated? What do you mean, that area is being annexed by the City of Durham?? It didn't make sense to me. By the same token, NY might have been better off if cities had been allowed to annex. I can think of at least a half-dozen small cities that have plenty of excess water and sewer capacity but are completely built-out and have limited options for tax base enhancement... some of them are strapped financially. Meanwhile, adjacent towns are booming, building their own water and sewage treatment plants to accommodate all types of development. It's so inefficient.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    The latest proposal I heard was the opposite- to create a new Town out of the former Fort Devens, which would secede from the three neighboring Towns. That failed at 2 of the respective three towns' Town Meetings and is dead.

    I do think many services should be regional in theory- police, fire, libraries. They all have made some strides that way but none of them will ever fully go that way. The blunt reason is that a municipality is a commodity- they stratify by income and then provide different levels of service based on what different populations can afford. Why would a rich community with good services ever agree to go regional?

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    This needs to be looked at on a service by service basis. Some services make more sense on a regional basis.
    I agree with this completely. I don't think many counties here in Ohio would be able to take the services that many townships provide. I think EMS and in some cases police are regional. Human Resources and support staff can be cut in a regional system, but many of the personal touches are lost. I know many people in Ohio that moved to townships because of the level of support they receive from township employees. We look to remove BIG government so often. Too much government is a bad thing, but by consolidating all the small governments, we create a very large government to support all the areas that were eaten.

    I think rural townships have lost their place in many areas, but many urban townships are just as important as the cities they surround.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    I had the same reaction moving to North Carolina from upstate NY in the mid-1980s. How could land be unincorporated?
    Moving from MA, it took me a little while to fully understand the relationship between counties and cities and towns in NC.

    Here, the counties run the schools and collect property taxes, functions which are reserved for municipalities in most of New England. Counties also decide how sales tax money is allocated. Counties do not maintain any sidewalks or roadways.

    We have townships here, but they have no government. Cities have the power to involuntarily annex adjacent areas that meet certain criteria set by the state. There have been repeated attempts to remove/restrict this ability.

    Our city and county transit systems merged in 2005 and our city and county utility systems just merged this past year. There has been talk of merging the city and county planning functions, but that structure was already tried a decade ago and it didn't last.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian AnvilPartners's avatar
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    It's not working in PA

    I can tell you after living in SW PA for two years, I was amazed to see a lot of duplication and waste that could have been eliminated if some of the smaller townships, villages and boroughs had consolidated...

    There is no unincorporated land there, and the County's role is minimal. I'm more familiar with a stronger County, which is the state's human services administration, and which is in charge of the unincorporated lands -- the small townships in PA (and some of them are really no bigger than a large neighborhood) just don't have the revenues or critical mass of population to get the job done.

    School districts there have the ability to raise taxes -- and school taxes there are pretty high -- even so, their systems are failing the 'no child left behind' standards...

    Small police departments are paying thier beat officers $10 an hour...I don't know about you but I want the officer that shows up at my emergency making a living wage, and want him to be well trained...

    I wonder if the toughening economic times will bring about consolidation there?

    RES

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