Local Government & School District Consolidation
Common Sense Mandates that Local Government & School District Consolidation, nationwide, is absolutely necessary and long overdue!
Do you often wonder why 1) there are so many local governments and school districts outside the city limits of our major cities, in other urban, suburban and rural areas, and 2) why that is necessary? The answer to the first question is there are so many because it goes back to a time when it took all day to travel by horse and buggy, or horseback, to the next town, not 10 minutes like today, and meetings were conducted face-to-face or through the exchange of handwritten letters transported over longer distances, not via telephone calls, emails, text messages or video conferencing. The answer to the second question is hell no, it’s not necessary at all! The argument that residents need local community access at the township and borough level is irrelevant when mayors, councilmen and commissioners of boroughs and townships are generally no more accessible than mayors and councilmen of larger cities and county managers/executives of counties.
The State of Pennsylvania is a case in point. That state has over 3,000 local governments (most being townships and boroughs, in addition to a much smaller number of cities and counties) and 500 school districts. This has resulted in there being wealthy and poor local governments and school districts (with the school districts not coinciding with township, borough, or city boundaries, for the most part, causing more confusion), with different levels of government services, education quality, infrastructure, and public safety, along with much higher or lower local property and income taxes for homes of the same value and households of the same income.
We can level the playing field, in terms of wealthy versus poor local governments and school districts, by limiting all local government categories to just two: Cities and Counties, and by making all school districts synonymous with them. All townships, boroughs and other local government categories would be eliminated through their either being annexed, in whole or part, by larger cities, or by their local governance coming under the jurisdiction, in whole or part, of the county they are located in. Some of the cities and counties would be merged into each other.
All contiguous urbanized areas over a certain minimum population density would come under the applicable city government, and all other areas would come under the applicable county government; this would be updated every three-five years, or after each 10-year census. The cities would not be totally independent of the counties (as in Virginia), with many state and federal social service programs continuing to be administered by the county, but they would be locally governed independently of the counties.
So, in the case of Pennsylvania, there might be 40 city governments and school districts, plus 60 (67 today) county governments and school districts, with a combined total of 100 city and county local governments/school districts, compared to today’s 3,500 local governments and school districts. The resultant consolidation cost savings, from local government and school district professional and administrative personnel reductions, would be massive, resulting in substantial reductions in local property and income taxes, not to mention enhancing local government efficiency, local ordinance/regulation compatibility and predictability, and greatly increasing regional coordination/planning. There would be no closing of schools, reduction of teachers, or even the changing of that many school names, thus preserving school tradition and pride. Since existing cities would become larger in area and population, their employee totals would increase, with a number of existing township and borough employees obtaining positions with the expanded cities or with the counties due to their increased responsibilities; however, most of the former township and borough employees would be provided free career counseling and job placement services in finding positions in the private sector or with other government-related entities. For example, two adjacent cities, with a combined 2,000 employees, might have 1,200 employees carrying out the same duties and handling the same work load, after the phased-in merger is completed.
Finally, such a consolidation mandate would have to come from either the federal level or by each individual state. And, more than likely, it would be phased in, over a 5-7 year period, during stronger economic periods. Another possibility would be for each state to select one region to undertake a pilot consolidation program, first, with the lessons learned being applied to the development and execution of the phased-in statewide local government/school district consolidation plan.
The bottom line is that those states that choose to move forward, first, in greatly consolidating their local governments and school districts, will be at a tremendous competitive advantage in attracting new businesses, industry, and residents.