The Expenditure Impacts of Unification in a Small Georgia County: A Contingency Perspective of City-County Consolidation

” This study offers evidence of greater efficiency and reduced costs in general government or administrative services when the consolidation occurs in a relatively small county.

Based on an analysis of real operating expenditures in the United Government of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia and in three comparison governments, this research finds that overall expenditures increased over time but that there were cost savings in some but not necessarily all functions and departments.

Moreover, the analysis suggests that there is nothing intrinsic in the act of consolidation that will guarantee more efficient operations. Like other governmental reforms, city-county consolidation offers the potential for economies of scale or size but governmental costs are contingent on the policy decisions of the elected commission, the management initiatives of key professional staff, and the constraints imposed on policy-makers and managers by provisions in the consolidated governments’ charter.”

Urban reformers and proponents of city-county consolidation claim that consolidated governments reduce costs and deliver services more efficiently. This claim is largely unsubstantiated with the little empirical evidence indicating that expenditures tend to increase after a governmental consolidation.

Published in Public Administration Quarterly | Sally Selden | 2016,