Auditor: MN should encourage local gov't consolidationby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
BEMIDJI, Minn. — A new Minnesota Legislative Auditor's report suggests the state should do more to encourage consolidation of local governments.
The report released Tuesday suggests the Legislature should provide grants to cities and townships to study consolidation as an efficiency option.
Jeff Spartz, director of the Association of Minnesota Counties, said consolidation alone isn't the answer to the state's budget woes, but it's a tool that local governments should know about.
"As populations decline in the rural areas, [consolidation] may become inevitable," Spartz said.
Minnesota has more than 2,700 local units of government. In the past some lawmakers have suggested fewer governments would be more efficient. However the auditor's report finds that consolidation doesn't bring a guarantee of cost savings or more efficient operations.
The report does suggest that changes in some state laws could make the consolidation process easier for local governments.
Gary Pedersen, director of the Minnesota Association of Townships, said most townships aren't interested in consolidation.
"There may be a few that join together down the road. Some of those it may make sense up in the northern part of the state where they're smaller and the population is small. You get in the rest of the state and townships are pretty viable. They're very efficient in what they do," he said.
Since 1980, only about 38 local governments have consolidated.