Consolidated city-county

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In United States local government, a consolidated city-county (also known as either a city-parish or a consolidated government in Louisiana, depending on the locality, [1] or a unified municipality, unified home rule borough, or city and borough [2] [3] in Alaska) is formed when one or more cities and their surrounding county (parish in Louisiana, borough in Alaska) merge into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is a type of unitary authority that has the governmental powers of both a municipal corporation and a county. [4]


A consolidated city-county is different from an independent city, although the latter may result from consolidation of a city and a county and may also have the same powers as a consolidated city-county. An independent city is a city not deemed by its state to be located within the boundary of any county and considered a primary administrative division of its state. [5] A consolidated city-county differs from an independent city in that the city and county both nominally exist, although they have a consolidated government, whereas in an independent city, the county does not even nominally exist. [4] Furthermore, a consolidated city-county may still contain independent municipalities maintaining some governmental powers that did not merge with the rest of the county. [6]

Not considering Hawaii, which has no independent municipalities, the Midwest and Upper South have the highest concentration of large consolidated city-county governments in the United States, includingIndianapolis, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City, Kansas; and Lexington, Kentucky. The largest consolidated city-county in the United States by population is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while the largest by land area is Sitka, Alaska.


Consolidated city-counties are typically formed to address particular government challenges. Among the benefits of having a unified jurisdiction include potential cost savings, more efficiency, increased legal powers and revenue sources, and a more streamlined planning system. [4]

Most consolidated city-counties have a single chief executive who acts as both the city mayor and as the head of the county government, and a multi-district elected body that serves as both the city council and as the county legislative body. [4]

In many states, consolidated city-counties must be approved by voters. [4] According to information compiled by former Albuquerque mayor David Rusk, 105 referendums were held in the United States between 1902 and 2010 to consider proposals to consolidate cities and counties. Only 27 of these proposals were approved by voters. [7]

Wyandotte County, Kansas, uses the term "unified government" to refer to its consolidation with Kansas City, Kansas, and most of the towns within the county boundaries remain separate jurisdictions within the county. Individual sections of a metropolitan or regional municipality may retain some autonomous jurisdiction apart from the citywide government.

Often, in place of another level of government, local governments form councils of governments – essentially governmental organizations which are not empowered with any law-making or law enforcement powers. This is the case in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) studies and makes recommendations on the impact of all major construction and development projects on the region, but generally cannot stop them. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) is a true government agency of the state of Georgia, and does control some state transportation funding to the cities and counties, but otherwise has very little authority beyond this small power of the purse.

The case of New York City is unique, in that the city consists of five boroughs, each of which is co-extensive with a county. Each has its own district attorney; however, county-level government is essentially non-existent as all executive and legislative power is exercised by the city government throughout the five boroughs. The city, as currently constituted, was created in 1898 when the city of New York (then comprising what would become the boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx) annexed Kings County, Queens County, and Richmond County as the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, respectively.

International equivalents

Similar unitary authority arrangements also exist in other countries. England has six "metropolitan counties" created in 1974: Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire. From 1986, these metropolitan counties do not have county councils but rather joint boards for certain functions. Modern unitary authorities are similar, and are known as county boroughs in Wales. In Scotland, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow are functionally "independent cities", though the term is not used. London is unique however, being a ceremonial county (officially known as Greater London) containing the 32 London boroughs. Enclaved within Greater London, the ancient City of London forms a distinct county, which today forms only a tiny part of what most consider to be London as a capital city, which takes up 607 square miles.

The Canadian province of Ontario contains several single-tier municipalities, which serve the same sort of functions as American consolidated city-counties. One example is the City of Toronto, created in 1998 from the amalgamation of the central government and the six constituent municipalities of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (a type of regional municipality), itself originally created in 1954.

In Germany, Berlin and Hamburg are both cities and states (the state of Bremen consists of the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven). Nearly every larger city in Germany is an independent city, like Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich or Dresden; Austria, where the capital of Vienna is both a city and state; France, where the capital city of Paris has been coterminous with the département of Paris since 1968; and South Korea, where Seoul is a special city , while six other cities (Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon, and Ulsan) are metropolitan cities. Additionally, the Australian Capital Territory government in Australia performs all municipal functions of the city of Canberra, and thus functions as an integrated city-territory. Similarly, the City of Tokyo merged with the prefecture to form Tokyo metropolis in 1943.


In nine consolidated city-county governments in the United States, the formerly independent incorporated places maintain some governmental powers. In these cities, which the United States Census Bureau calls "consolidated cities", statistics are recorded both for the entire consolidated government and for the component municipalities. A part of the consolidated government is called the "balance", which the Census Bureau defines as "the consolidated city minus the semi-independent incorporated places located within the consolidated city". [6]

In Georgia, consolidations often required multiple attempts, changes in procedures, and different local laws in the state legislature. They often did not include some smaller jurisdictions. They also retained characteristics of both types of government, e.g, a sheriff as required by the Georgia Constitution. ] [8]

These consolidated cities are: [6]

List of consolidated city-counties

Consolidated since their creation



Merged with some independent municipalities

Five cities in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia were formed by the consolidation of a city with a county: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach (from Norfolk, Elizabeth City, Warwick, Nansemond, and Princess Anne counties, respectively). However, in each case an independent city was created and as such they are not consolidated city-counties. Instead, the Code of Virginia uses the term "consolidated city." [4] [30] Similarly, Carson City was consolidated with Ormsby County, Nevada in 1969, but the county was simultaneously dissolved. The city is now a municipality independent of any county. [4]

Potentially consolidated

Considered consolidation

Formerly consolidated

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Borough</span> Administrative division in some English-speaking countries

A borough is an administrative division in various English-speaking countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the term varies widely.

A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish. The term is in use in five countries: Canada, China, Hungary, Romania, and the United States. An equivalent term, shire town, is used in the U.S. state of Vermont and in several other English-speaking jurisdictions. County towns usually serve a similar function in Ireland, Jamaica, and the United Kingdom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">County (United States)</span> Subdivision used by most states in the United States

In the United States, a county or county equivalent is an administrative or political subdivision of a U.S. state or other territories of the United States which consists of a geographic area with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs, respectively. The specific governmental powers of counties vary widely between the states, with many providing some level of services to civil townships, municipalities, and unincorporated areas. Certain municipalities are in multiple counties; New York City is uniquely partitioned into five counties, referred to at the city government level as boroughs. Some municipalities have been consolidated with their county government to form consolidated city-counties, or have been legally separated from counties altogether to form independent cities. Conversely, those counties in Connecticut, Rhode Island, eight of Massachusetts's 14 counties, and Alaska's Unorganized Borough have no government power, existing only as geographic distinctions.

A school district is a special-purpose district that operates local public primary or secondary schools or both in various countries.

A civil township is a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county, most often in the northern and midwestern parts of the country. The term town is used in New England, New York, as well as Wisconsin to refer to the equivalent of the civil township in these states; Minnesota uses "town" officially but often uses it and "township" interchangeably. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary in each state. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both, the boundaries often coincide and may completely geographically subdivide a county. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies civil townships as minor civil divisions. Currently, there are 20 states with civil townships.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Local government in the United States</span> Governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state

Most U.S. states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. Louisiana uses the term parish and Alaska uses the term borough for what the U.S. Census Bureau terms county equivalents in those states. Civil townships or towns are used as subdivisions of a county in 20 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Borough (United States)</span> Administrative division at the local government level in the United States

A borough in some U.S. states is a unit of local government or other administrative division below the level of the state. The term is currently used in six states:

The borough president are the chief executives of the five boroughs of New York City. For most of the city's history, the office exercised significant executive powers within each borough, and the five borough presidents also sat on the New York City Board of Estimate. Since 1990, the borough presidents have been stripped of a majority of their powers in the government of New York City.

A merger, consolidation or amalgamation, in a political or administrative sense, is the combination of two or more political or administrative entities, such as municipalities, counties, districts, etc., into a single entity. This term is used when the process occurs within a sovereign entity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Village (United States)</span> Administrative division at the local government level in the United States

In the United States, the meaning of village varies by geographic area and legal jurisdiction. In formal usage, a "village" is a type of administrative division at the local government level. Since the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from legislating on local government, the states are free to have political subdivisions called "villages" or not to and to define the word in many ways. Typically, a village is a type of municipality, although it can also be a special district or an unincorporated area. It may or may not be recognized for governmental purposes.

In the United States, an independent city is a city that is not in the territory of any county or counties and is considered a primary administrative division of its state. Independent cities are classified by the United States Census Bureau as "county equivalents" and may also have similar governmental powers to a consolidated city-county or a unitary authority. However, in the case of a consolidated city-county, a city and a county were merged into a unified jurisdiction in which the county at least nominally exists to this day, whereas an independent city was legally separated from any county or merged with a county that simultaneously ceased to exist even in name.

A coterminous municipality, sometimes also known as a coterminous city or a coterminous town-village, is a form of local government in some U.S. states in which a municipality and one or more civil townships have partial or complete consolidation of their government functions. A term used for the formation of such a local government is "township and municipal consolidation." This form of local government is distinct from a municipality coterminous with a higher level of government, which is called a consolidated city-county or a variation of that term.


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