Discussions on the Pros and Cons of Consolidation
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Discussions on the Pros and Cons of Consolidation. Presented by Pat Hardy: The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service. We will talk about:. 1. The history of consolidation in the U.S. 2. Hard research related to consolidated jurisdictions.

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Discussions on the pros and cons of consolidation

Discussions on the Pros and Cons of Consolidation

Presented by Pat Hardy:

The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service

We will talk about
We will talk about:

1. The history of consolidation in the U.S.

2. Hard research related to consolidated jurisdictions.

3. Some commonly cited pros and cons of consolidation.

What we won t talk about
What we won’t talk about:

1. Particulars related to the process of consolidation.

2. Opinions about consolidation.

The history of consolidation
The history of consolidation…

In the past 40 years there has been a net decrease of 31,801 units of local government in the U.S.


The history of consolidation1
The history of consolidation…

… the decrease has been largely confined to a reduction in the number of school districts.

The history of consolidation2
The history of consolidation

In fact, an additional 2,472 “general purpose” governments were created during the same period. Most of these have been cities.

The history of consolidation3
The history of consolidation

  • This means:

  • Suburbanization of our nation continues.

  • The desire for local control of this suburbanization continues.

The history of consolidation4
The history of consolidation

It also means:

  • Consolidation of cities and counties has not been a significant trend affecting how our local governments operate.

  • In fact the opposite has occurred – there has been continued fragmentation of our local governments.

The scope of consolidation
The scope of consolidation:

- About 3,069 counties in the U.S.

- 38 of these are “consolidated” – that’s 1%

- Really, only about 24 (3/4 of 1%)

- Since 1976, only 13 consolidations.

The scope of consolidation1
The scope of consolidation:

  • The first was New Orleans /New Orleans Parish La. in 1805.

  • - The last was Macon/ Bibb County GA. in 2012.

3 consolidations in tennessee
3 Consolidations in Tennessee:

Hartsville/Trousdale County - 2001

Nashville/Davidson County - 1962



Lynchburg/MooreCounty - 1988


Consolidation efforts
Consolidation efforts:

  • Nationwide there have been 132 formal consolidation attempts between 1921 and 1996.

    • 16% were successful.

    • Of these attempts, 102 have been in Southeastern states.

Consolidation efforts in tennessee
Consolidation efforts in Tennessee:

  • YearCityCounty% Support

  • 1958 Nashville Davidson 47.3%

  • 1959 Knoxville Knox 16.7%

  • 1962 Memphis Shelby 36.8%

  • 1962 Nashville Davidson 56.8%

  • 1964 Chattanooga Hamilton 19.2%

  • 1970 Chattanooga Hamilton 48%

  • 1971 Memphis Shelby 47.6%

  • 1978 Knoxville Knox 48%

  • 1981 Clarksville Montgomery 16.3%

  • 1982 Bristol Sullivan 11%

  • 1983 Knoxville Knox 47.6%

  • 1987 Jackson Madison 47.3%

  • 1987 Lynchburg Moore 93.1%

  • 1988 Sparta White 39.4%

  • 1988 Bristol Sullivan 31.2%

  • Hartsville Trousdale 51.9%

  • Fayetteville Lincoln

  • 2008 Fayetteville Lincoln 21%

  • 2010 Memphis Shelby 36.4%

  • 2012 Columbia Maury 23.1%

Consolidation efforts1
Consolidation efforts:

There is a tendency to support the study of consolidation, but not actual consolidation…

73% support for study commissions

47% for actual consolidation.

Thus, most voters who initially support a look at consolidation do not later support consolidation itself.

1974 metro nashville davidson county study
1974 Metro Nashville/Davidson County Study

Hypothesis: Citizens served by metropolitan government will be more satisfied with services than citizens served by a smaller municipality.

This hypothesis was not supported by the data.

In fact, to a large extent the opposite was found.

Here s what the study found
Here’s what the study found:

  • For police, street repair, and parks and recreation services, smaller city residents were more satisfied than metro residents.

  • 2. For garbage collection services ratings were approximately equal.

  • 3. For fire protection services metro residents were more satisfied than residents in the smaller jurisdictions.

More findings from this study
more findings from this study…

  • When asked if their “local government was concerned about their neighborhood” 85% of smaller city residents agreed and only 55% of metro residents did likewise.

  • When asked if they agreed with the statement, “A person can’t get any satisfaction out of talking to the public officials in my neighborhood”, 78% of small city residents disagreed with this statement while only 53% of metro residents disagreed.

  • Other results showed that small city residents knew which official to complain to more often than metro residents. These same residents did complain more often when they wanted to and were satisfied with responses more than metro residents were.

Other studies have shown the following
Other studies have shown the following:

  • A Florida State study of Metro Jacksonville/Duvall County examined their 30-year track record and “failed to find evidence of a link between consolidation and economic development.” It concluded that consolidation “has not enhanced the local economy.”

  • In contrast a study found that the Indianapolis consolidated government “… has enhanced the effectiveness of economic development strategy – there has been substantial economic development in the downtown that would not have occurred without Uni-Gov.”

Studies related to costs finances
Studies related to costs/finances :

  • A number of studies have shown that expenditures tend to rise under consolidated jurisdictions at rates higher than in decentralized jurisdictions. Some suggest this is because new or more services are usually added (one study noted that “consolidated governments have expanded public services considerably”).

  • Purdue University research has shown that larger units of government are more expensive to operate than smaller units. They conclude, “The bulk of evidence indicates that consolidation increases taxes and spending.”

  • A 2000 University of Georgia study concluded, “Very few studies have examined the impact of city-county consolidation, and what little evidence does exist suggests that costs will actually increase in the short term.”

  • 4. A study by David Sjoquist found that in 48 southern urban areas, central cities that compete with other local governments tend to spend less – thus he concluded, “the level of expenditures will fall as the number of jurisdictions increase.”

Studies related to costs finances continued
Studies related to costs/finances continued…

  • 5. A number of other studies have examined the potential “efficiency” of consolidated jurisdictions. The results are mixed. Thus the efficiency of consolidated governments has not been verified empirically.

  • 6. One study showed that certain functions such as finance can incur savings under consolidation. However, after examining other services it pointed out that there is no guarantee of savings.

  • 7. Economies of scale in consolidated jurisdictions have not been demonstrated.

Studies related to passage have shown the following
Studies related to passage have shown the following:

  • The impetus behind most consolidation attempts is “economic development.” This focus is mostly pushed by “civic elites” such as elected officials, business leaders, Chambers of Commerce, etc.

  • If voters perceive that minority representation will not be preserved, then substantial opposition will likely be generated against consolidation.

  • “Overwhelming support of elected officials is essential to any pro-consolidation campaign.”

Consolidation pros real and perceived
Consolidation “Pros” – real and perceived:

  • Less duplication of service..

    • Not as much duplication as commonly thought.

    • The opportunity exists for jointly provided services.

  • Improved coordination of services.

  • Efficiency.

  • Expanded services.

  • Fewer officials.

  • Reduced jurisdictional confusion.

  • Economy of scale.

  • Improved harmony.

  • An economic development edge.

  • Equalization of services.

Consolidation cons real and perceived
Consolidation “Cons” – real and perceived:

  • Changes in structure.

  • Distribution and control of resources.

  • Level of service or reduction of services considerations.

  • Compromised citizen satisfaction with some services.

  • Some changes in citizen access and response from government.

  • Decision-making difficulties.

  • Policy vs. administration demarcation difficulties.

  • Loss of some sense of community.

Ut mtas resources
UT-MTAS Resources:

First go to: mtas.tennessee.edu

Then click: “Find Useful Links”

Then click: “City Administration”

Then click: “Consolidation Information”

Then find: - This PowerPoint

- Consolidation Research and History paper.

- Consolidation Pros and Cons paper.