Of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government, McHenry County has 30 municipalities, 19 school districts, 17 townships, 17 fire protection districts, 13 library districts, four park districts, two sanitary districts and two cemetery districts.
Oh, and it has taxing bodies for a conservation district, a mental health board, a senior services grant commission and the county nursing home.
There’s no shortage of government in McHenry County.
We have been longtime proponents of less government in Illinois. With so many governments collecting and spending public funds, it is virtually impossible for a citizen to keep track of what all of them are doing. Many of them are less than transparent in their operations, and many of the services they offer are duplicative.
So when state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, sponsored House Bill 5785 after releasing a report from the Local Government Consolidation Commission, which he chaired, we were encouraged about consolidation moving in the right direction.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed Franks’ bill into law Monday. It empowers governments to consolidate or vote themselves out of existence if they so choose. The new law allows the boards of taxing districts such as cemetery, civic center, museum, port, waste disposal, street lighting, water authority and other districts to either consolidate into a neighboring district or have their duties absorbed by a municipal or county government.
In McHenry County, that means we could trim two taxing districts: the Nunda Township and Richmond cemetery districts. Yes, two.
The new law is a step in the right direction, but it hardly will put a dent into the number of taxing bodies in Illinois. While the law allows for government units to dissolve themselves, we aren’t confident many taxing bodies will take this step.
Taxpayers will have to continue to make the push for consolidation.