WOODSTOCK – Two local governments in a state that critics say has far too many of them got a pat on the back Tuesday from Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti for saving taxpayer money by sharing services.
Sanguinetti, who has taken on the cause of paring down the state’s nearly 7,000 units of government, recognized the McHenry County Planning and Development Department and the McHenry-Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District for sharing an employee.
Since 2012, the department has subcontracted a district employee to review all wetland permit requirements, eliminating the need to hire an extra staff member and saving an estimated $500,000 to date in salary, benefits and staff time.
The example falls under one of 27 recommendations listed in a first-of-its-kind report from Sanguinetti’s office showing local governments leading by example to try to save taxpayers’ money.
Illinois not only has the largest number of local governments, but also, and likely not coincidentally, the highest property tax burden of all 50 states.
Although many governments are sharing equipment and staff, Sanguinetti said McHenry County’s example stands out because it’s expertise that is being shared.
“This one was extra special because they’re sharing brain power, and there is a public policy component to it,” she said after the brief ceremony at the McHenry County Administration Building.
Illinois has more than 6,900 units of local government, far more than any other state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The first runner-up, Texas, which has more than double Illinois’ population and is almost five times larger by size, has 5,147 – about 1,800 fewer.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, who highlighted property tax reform as one of his top legislative priorities during his 2014 campaign, created the Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates by executive order in 2015, and he put Sanguinetti in charge of it. Former state Rep. – and now the County Board chairman – Jack Franks, who headed such a task force under the previous governor, was assigned to the new one.
Among the task force’s 27 recommendations are cutting costs to taxpayers by sharing services where possible. Sanguinetti’s office in December published its inaugural Journal of Local Government Shared Services Best Practices, which highlights examples for Illinois governments to follow.
Accepting the certificates from Sanguinetti were Joanna Colletti, water resources manager for the Planning and Development Department, and Spring Duffey, resource analyst for the Soil and Water Conservation District.
The main reason Illinois has so many governments likely has its roots in a borrowing cap that was part of the 1870 Illinois Constitution, which lasted for a century before the current 1970 Constitution.
Municipal and county governments that reached that constitutional debt limit and wanted to add services asked lawmakers to allow the creation of special districts that flourish today.
The types of special districts in Illinois are many, from fire protection and library districts to obscure ones such as cemetery, museum, street lighting, drainage and mosquito abatement districts.
On the web
Read the final report of the Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates and the inaugural Journal of Local Government Shared Services Best Practices at www.illinois.gov/ltg.