Senator pushes for city-county mergers


December 20th, 2010

Nebraska's 93 counties were established over 100 years ago (Photo courtesy DHHS)

Omaha, NE – Nebraska’s 93 counties may come under pressure to merge with city government next year. The Nebraska Legislature is looking for ways to save money, and close a projected budget shortfall of close to $1 billion. As part of a requirement to find 10 percent in budget reductions, the Judiciary Committee has proposed merging county services with nearby cities, and repealing a 1972 law that provided relief to counties by the state paying for county court clerks. Committee Chairman Brad Ashford said the time has come for counties and cities to take a serious look at consolidation.

“It’s not going to work with 93 counties. Especially in the Omaha metropolitan area where the city makes up almost 85% of the county, in land mass and population, even more in population… and still have two governments.”

“That’s 100 years ago thinking.”

Douglas County Fiscal Administrator Steve Walker said the county has merged responsibilities with the city of Omaha in several departments, but total consolidation would be a different story. He said he doesn’t believe the political will exists for that to occur. And though he hasn’t looked over the numbers, he said it’ll likely be a significant cost to taxpayers.

“I have to assume it’s several million dollars,” he said. “That would be very, very difficult for the county to absorb, without considering other revenue sources, one of which is obviously an increase in property taxes.”

“Last year, a majority of our departments took a 4% reduction in their operational costs to make our budget work.”

The Committee’s budget cutting proposal will be debated when the Legislature reconvenes in January.


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