Consolidated city–county

Administrative divisions of the United States
First level

Indian reservation

Second level

Consolidated city–county
— Independent city

Third level
Cities, towns and villages

Civil township

In United States local government, a consolidated city–county is a city and county that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal corporation, and a county, which is an administrative division of a state. It has the powers and responsibilities of both types of entities.

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 recognized by its state as a legal territorial entity separate from surrounding or adjoining counties. The Midwest and Upper South have the highest concentration of large consolidated city–county governments in the United States, including Indianapolis, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City, Kansas; Lexington, Kentucky; and Denver, Colorado.



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.

Similar arrangements exist in other countries such as Germany, where Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg are both cities and states. Nearly every larger city in Germany is a consolidated city–county, 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.

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.[1]

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 in which some cities and towns remain separate jurisdictions within the county. Individual sections of a metropolitan or regional municipality may retain some autonomous jurisdiction apart from the city-wide government.

Often, in place of another level of government, municipalities form coalitions[original research?] – 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 monies 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. The boroughs retain some individual functions within the city government, but the counties are essentially merely administrative divisions. The city as currently constituted was created in 1898 by the consolidation of the independent cities of New York (i.e. Manhattan) and Brooklyn with Queens and Richmond (Staten Island) counties and a part of Westchester County which became The Bronx.


In seven consolidated city–county governments In the United States, the formerly independent incorporated places maintain some governmental powers. In these cities, which the Bureau of the Census 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".[2]

These consolidated cities are:[2]

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."[18] 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.

Potentially consolidated

  • Aurora, Colorado, split between three counties, explored the creation of a new consolidated city-county in 1996; the effort subsequently failed in a referendum. However, five years later nearby Broomfield was successful in creating a new city-county from portions of the four counties it had been a part of. Encouraged by Broomfield's experience, an Aurora city councilman has proposed consolidation again in 2006.[19] This was not accomplished in the 2006 or 2007, and no bills to accomplish consolidation were introduced in the 2008 session of the Colorado legislature.
  • A proposal has been made to merge Johnson County, Kansas and Wyandotte County, Kansas and the cities located in those two into a single consolidated city-county, name to be determined.[20]
  • In 2005, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio published a series of articles exploring the possibility of the city's merging with Cuyahoga County.[21]
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida provides city-level police, fire-rescue, sanitation, and other services to many of the municipalities within its borders.
  • A report was released in April 2008 recommending the merger of the governments of the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and that of Allegheny County. This plan has been endorsed by the mayor of Pittsburgh and the Chief Executive of Allegheny County, but needs approval by the City and County councils and from the state legislature before a referendum can be put forth for the voters to approve such a merger.
  • The independent City of St. Louis, Missouri and that of St. Louis County. The city of St. Louis seceded from St. Louis County in the 1870s and is not part of any county in the state of Missouri. The city has since tried to rejoin the county several times, each time rejected by county voters.[22]

Considered consolidation

Formerly consolidated

  • The City of Boston and Suffolk County, Massachusetts operated with a consolidated government for most of the twentieth century with Boston providing office space, auditors, budget, personnel and financial oversight for Suffolk County. This was not a true consolidation because three municipalities – Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop – were never annexed into Boston and remained separate jurisdictions within Suffolk County; however, the county was in control of the City of Boston by law. The special relationship between Boston and Suffolk County ended in 1999 as part of the gradual abolition of county governments statewide with all county employees and powers transferred to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts control. The only remaining powers and duties for the City of Boston in regards to the county is regarding the Suffolk County Register of Deeds where the city council issues the ceremonial oath of office as well as calls for a meeting to hold a special election to fill the office should there be a failure to elect someone to the office or a vacancy occurs.

See also


  1. ^ Kate Linebaugh, Threats to Town Halls Stir Voter Backlash, Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2011
  2. ^ a b Population Estimates Geography, United States Census Bureau, 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  3. ^ Website of the Municipality of Anchorage
  4. ^ a b "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. December 1, 2004. Retrieved November 24, 2006. 
  5. ^ Website of the City and County of Broomfield
  6. ^ Website of the County of Honolulu
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Website of the Community of Anaconda
  9. ^ Website of Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government
  10. ^ Website of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z City-County Consolidation Proposals, 1921 - Present, National Assocation of Counties. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
  12. ^ Official New York City Website
  13. ^ Camden County Government - Board of Commissioners - February 10, 2006
  14. ^ Website of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana
  15. ^ Website of Louisville Metro Government
  16. ^ Greeley County residents pass unification, Garden City Telegram, 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  17. ^ "City and county to unify". The Kansas City Star. 2007-11-07. 
  18. ^ Virginia Code § 15.2-3521
  19. ^ City and County of Aurora? by J.C. O'Connell. The Aurora Daily Sun & Sentinel, January 30, 2006.
  20. ^ Johnson-Wyandotte merger? by Jesse Truesdale. The [Bonner Springs] Chieftain, February 2, 2006.
  21. ^ A Region Divided. Special series of The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer, published throughout 2005.
  22. ^ St. Louis Five-Year Consolidated Plan Strategy 2006-2010
  23. ^ a b c d e f "Some Major City-County Consolidation Referenda in the 20th Century". 
  24. ^ One Buffalo[dead link]
  25. ^ a b NCSU Innovation Online, by Diane Cherry
  26. ^ Both sides say Evansville-Vanderburgh County merger is possible, by Thomas B. Langhorne. Indiana Economic Digest, February 13, 2006
  27. ^ 79(R) SJR 9 in the Texas State Legislature
  28. ^ Alaska Division of Community Advocacy
  29. ^ "Voters reject metro government in Lincoln Co.". WATE. 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  30. ^ Debate stirs on consolidation, by Benjamin Lanka. The [Fort Wayne] Journal Gazette, March 5, 2006.
  31. ^ Kirby, Cassondra (November 3, 2004). "Article: Voters in Franklin and Frankfort counties, Ky., reject government merger.". AccessMyLibrary. Lexington, KY: Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  32. ^ Microsoft Word - All CONSLDLS 2006bev _3_.doc
  33. ^ The Effects on City-County Consolidation
  35. ^ Business Backs Consolidated Government, by Kate Miller. Memphis Business Journal, March 15, 2002.
  36. ^ Consolidation: Memphis suburbs' rejection of merger 'loud and clear'
  37. ^ Muncie & Delaware County Reorganization Committee
  38. ^ City of Orlando / Orange County Consolidation of Services Study Commission
  39. ^ Town Meeting: Louisville mayor offers primer on uniting city-county government, By Jeffrey Cohan. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 1, 2004.
  40. ^ Skepticism greets ‘Unigov’ summit, by Tom Troy. The Toledo Blade, March 4, 2004.
  41. ^ Shawnee County Government and Consolidation, by Richard V. Eckert. 2005-05-02.

External links

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