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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, including Indianapolis, 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[edit]

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 Russia, there are urban districts - territories consisting of a city and nearby settlements united by one mayor's office. As a rule, urban districts are the capitals of the constituent entities of the Russia and other major cities in the region. In 2020, there were 635 urban districts.


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[edit]

Consolidated since their creation[edit]



Merged with some independent municipalities[edit]

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[edit]

  • 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 again proposed consolidation in 2006.[31] This was not accomplished in 2006 or 2007, and no bills to accomplish consolidation were introduced in the 2008 session of the Colorado legislature.
  • A proposal was made to merge Johnson County, Kansas and Wyandotte County, Kansas and the cities located in those two into a single consolidated city-county, with the name to be determined.[32]
  • In 2005, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio published a series of articles exploring the possibility of the city's merging with Cuyahoga County.[33]
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida operates under a federated two-tier government, where the county government operates as a superseding entity of county affairs and lower-tier incorporated municipalities operate civil and community services at the city level. However, the county provides city-level[clarification needed] police, fire-rescue, sanitation, and other services under contract to many of the municipalities within its borders.
  • 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. Regional leaders have since proposed several plans to reunify the City and County, each one rejected by voters.[34]

Considered consolidation[edit]

Formerly consolidated[edit]

  • 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 City of Boston held complete control of the county by law. The special relationship between Boston and Suffolk County ended in 1999 as part of the gradual abolition of county governments through much of the state with all county employees and powers transferred to Commonwealth of Massachusetts control. The only remaining powers and duties for the City of Boston in regards to the county is ceremonial in which the Suffolk County Register of Deeds is issued the oath of office at the start of a term 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 should a vacancy occur.
  • From the 17th century to 1898, New York City was coterminous with New York County and was often referred to as the "City and County of New York". Both were coterminous with Manhattan until 1874, when the City and County annexed parts of Westchester County that would later become the West Bronx, later annexing the remainder of the future Bronx. Upon consolidation in 1898, New York County was coterminous and consolidated with the boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan, while the other boroughs were consolidated with their own respective counties. The Bronx was separated from New York County in 1914 to form its own Bronx County, and since then, each of the five boroughs of New York City is coterminous and consolidated with a county of New York state.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]