(1) The fiscal viability of municipal and county governments is challenged by changing demographics and tax bases;
(2) With many local governments there is significant duplicity of services;
(3) Certain local governments are at their taxable limits and yet are facing fee increases to remain financially viable; and
(4) Local governments should perform at the highest level of efficiency and economy while providing the highest standards of governmental services to their citizens.
(b) The Legislature finds that consolidation of local governments:
(1) Is in the public interest;
(2) Would help promote economic growth and development;
(3) Would help local governments provide more efficient local services and more effective public administration; and
(4) Would keep local governments viable and provide more governing flexibility.
(c) Therefore, in order to attain high standards of efficiency, economy, service and flexibility and to assure the ongoing improvement in the quality of life of all citizens of the state, the Legislature hereby encourages and permits all local governments to consolidate part or all of their governmental and corporate functions.
(1) "Affected municipality", "affected county", "affected metro government" or "affected area", or the plural, mean municipalities, counties or metro governments in the territory encompassed by the proposed charter of a consolidated local government.
(2) "Consolidated local government", or the plural, means a type of government that encompasses municipal consolidation, county consolidation and metro consolidation.
(3) "County consolidation" and "consolidated county" mean the consolidation of two or more counties as defined by the charter.
(4) "Governing body", or the plural, means the body charged with the responsibility of enacting laws and determining public policy of a municipal or county government or local consolidated government.
(5) "Metro consolidation" and "metro government" mean the consolidation of one or more counties and a principal city as defined by the charter.
(6) "Municipal consolidation" and "consolidated municipality" mean the consolidation of two or more municipalities, including cities, towns and villages, as defined by the charter.
(7) "Principal city" means the municipality with the largest population in the territory encompassed by the proposed charter of the consolidated local government.
(b) The Legislature has the constitutional authority to permit municipalities to consolidate pursuant to section thirty-nine-a, article VI of the West Virginia Constitution permitting home rule for municipalities. Pursuant to section thirteen, article IX of the West Virginia Constitution permitting reformation of county commissions, the Legislature has the authority to permit counties to consolidate and municipalities and counties to consolidate to create a new executive or legislative tribunal, or both, in the form of a metro government that performs both the duties of a municipality and a county.