In his column today, John Hood writes that many local government consolidations just don’t work out:
On paper, the consolidation of local governments often seems attractive. By eliminating duplicative services and spreading administrative expenses over a larger number of public employees and residents, consolidation offers the prospect of reducing the cost of public services while maintaining or improving their quality.
But in the real world, these benefits often prove illusory. When you consolidate school districts or other governments, you reduce the extent to which local residents can move with their feet to jurisdictions that best reflect their preferred mix of government costs and services. Only by moving far away, perhaps even to another metro area altogether, can they escape the jurisdiction of poorly run governments. Unless their employment prospects or lack of family ties permit it, this radical alternative is too costly for many residents. So the consolidated governments can afford to grow more bureaucratic, more costly, and less worried about the quality of services they provide.
A valuable lesson to remember especially as a possible merger between the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is being pushed by the Anthony Foxx and others.