New Municipal Boundary Data Sets for the State




December 9, 2016


Little Rock, Arkansas


The Arkansas Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Board approved loading two new data sets for publication at at their December 7th meeting.  This move has major consequences for GIS users throughout the state. The data represents the Municipal Boundary and Municipal Boundary Change feature data sets.  The Board’s unanimous vote, cemented a major transformation in the how will warehouse and distribute municipal boundary detail.


The vote culminated from a year’s worth of work by the Arkansas Secretary State Elections Division, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) and the Arkansas GIS Office to implement Act 914 of 2015.  This law requires the Arkansas GIS Office, and cities to coordinate together on all city boundary changes, including consolidation, incorporation, and unincorporation.  The spirit of that law is that all municipal boundary changes begin with a GIS map.  The second thing the law does is to require the Arkansas GIS Office to submit a consolidated report of all city boundary changes to the U.S. Census Bureau.  In the future, city boundary change will be born and reported digital.  City, County, state and the federal government will all be using the same information for cities.  This multi-agency coordination between the state entities has resulted in implementation of numerous business and GIS processes that track the change of municipal boundaries in the state.


The two data sets are now published on the platform. They are titled “Municipal Boundary” and “Municipal Boundary Change.”  Both of these data sets together will paint a complete picture of city boundary actions.  The Municipal Boundary file represents the contemporary boundary of the city.  The Municipal Boundary Change feature consists of multiple individual polygons, each representing a unique boundary description.  These change polygons can represent annexation, consolidation, detachment, incorporation or unincorporation of territory.


The Municipal Boundary geometry was derived from the AHTD City Limit file, however, it contains a new set of attribute columns that are necessary for implementing the new tracking.  Going forward, the AHTD City Limit file will remain as an archived publication, but officials should no longer use those records to keep up with cities.  GIS users and decision makers who demand the most accurate and timely city boundary will need to use the new Municipal Boundary data set.


During the transition period, AHTD staff, led by Sharon Hawkins have worked carefully to ensure their records were complete prior to the data being cross-walked.  At the same time the GIS Office put in place an efficient system to coordinate the GIS data of city boundaries.  The agency coordination can range from anyone representing a citizen initiated petition to a city initiated action.  The agency receives documentation that can include deeds, plats, maps, legal descriptions, or ordinances and translates those into a GIS representation of the change.  Correspondence is returned to the entity that includes an official letter and map which are included in the formal record.


The GIS Office has coordinated closely with the Secretary of State Office Elections Division.  That effort has been led by Cynthia Fisher, who receives the official recording of legal boundary changes.  Fisher implemented a checklist of procedures that include all of the documents required to be filed.  When those documents arrive, Fisher electronically transmits those and a notification to the GIS Office.   The new boundaries, which were already mapped, are then pushed out to the system for distribution.  The boundaries that were born digital can then be updated, distributed and used for decision making faster than ever.  The information will simultaneously be used for reporting to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Earlier this year Dr. Beth McMillan, Chair of the GIS Board signed the official Memorandum of Understanding between the state and the U.S. Census Bureau, Geography Division.  The agreement formalizes the cooperation necessary for the GIS Office to serve as the single point of contact for the Bureau’s Boundary and Annexation Survey.  Previously, that survey was sent to the each of the City Mayors and County Judges in the state. Late next week, city and county governments in the state will receive correspondence from the Census Bureau informing them of the state agreement.  That correspondence will instruct them to coordinate with the GIS Office for changes to their boundaries.


Under the new law and agreement, the GIS Office will file its first statewide Boundary and Annexation Survey report to the U.S. Census Bureau in early 2017.  The report will be composed of the Municipal Boundary and Municipal Boundary Change feature data sets and the associated information about those records.



More information can be found at:

Municipal Boundaries Attribute Schema and Metadata

Connect to the feature services at: