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Article Summary

Carpinello, George F., and Patricia E. Salkin. 1990. "Legal Processes for Facilitating Consolidation and Cooperation Among Local Government: Models from Other States." Albany, NY: Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

This report introduces the legal structure and processes used to facilitate cooperation, consolidation, and coordination among local government entities in other states and in several foreign countries. Many other states, especially in the South and West, have been more active in making changes that can serve as instructive examples for New York. They have applied a number of methods and strategies for implementing territorial and functional changes including annexation, consolidation, functional transfer.

Annexation, in particular, has been one of major methods for local boundary changes in the western and southern regions. Not only has population grown and shifted, but unincorporated land also existed in their territories. These states illustrate various methods for annexation: unilateral annexation by municipality or voter approval, by judicial approval, by boundary commissions, or by special state legislation. In contrast to many southern and western states, however, all counties in New York are divided into towns and cities.

Another means for changing municipal boundaries is consolidation. It has been applied mainly in city-county consolidations. The vast majority of attempts and successful consolidations are in the South and West. Some states allowed the affected government bodies to form consolidation commissions or allowed the voters to initiate the process by petition. Not every attempt was successful. Voters tended to disapprove it because of fear of higher taxes and an unwillingness to assume responsibility for major problems of cities. Consolidation in New York is more unlikely due to the absence of general laws or procedures and the requirement of an affirmative vote in each affected jurisdiction.

Many states also attempted to transfer the governmental function to a higher metropolitan-wide entity. Some states like Ontario, Canada, and Florida were successful, because they not only have constitutional or statutory provisions, but also because they allow for transfers without voter approval. Other states, including New York, however, were not successful because of voter disapproval and other procedural barriers. Instead, some states have instituted cooperative agreements or contracts among municipalities to provide services.

There are some limitations on the formation of new governmental units. "Defensive incorporation" by communities has created fragmentation and reduced the incentives for consolidation and more comprehensive cooperation. Moreover, this issue tends to be treated as a problem restricted to the local entities. Though in many cases annexation or consolidation efforts are defeated, there is still considerable pressure to reduce duplication of services and to make the most of economies of service.