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Bill eases task of streamlining local government

DuPage County effort might just spread statewide

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

There’s a bill heading to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk that would make DuPage County a laboratory for efficient local government. It might even produce a magic trick: Watch this taxing body disappear!

The bill would let the DuPage County Board dissolve some government units by simply passing an ordinance. No, the board members couldn’t go crazy. The law would require an audit and a 6-month public review. Voters could seek a referendum to block the county board and save the local government.

It all creates a reasonable process that could mean: Presto! One of the 6,969 units of government in Illinois would be no more.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin pushed this legislation after he ran into enormous obstacles in trying to eliminate one example of what he calls zombie governments.

The Timberlake Estates Sanitary District had handed all its responsibilities to another agency three decades ago but still showed up on property tax bills. In April 2011, Cronin’s staff began an arcane process of mailings, door-to-door solicitations, public notices and legal submissions. In March – nearly 2 years after the process started – a judge finally signed off on eliminating the sanitary district.

Illinois has, by far, more local governments than any other state. DuPage County alone has more than 400 governments.

The bill approved by the House and Senate is narrowly drawn. It would provide DuPage County – and only DuPage County – with the authority to dissolve outdated or defunct agencies that are managed by governing boards appointed by the county. The bill could impact 13 entities, such as the Century Hill Street Lighting District, the Salt Creek Sanitary District, and the Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District.

Would the world miss the Century Hill Street Lighting District, which has three trustees in charge of approving an annual levy of about $15,000 to pay for lights in a subdivision in unincorporated Naperville?

This is a modest, well-targeted bill, but it does help to draw attention to how much Illinois taxpayers get dinged for those 6,696 local governments.

Don’t even get us started on townships.

Removing unneeded layers of local government would help to deliver essential public services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. It would help to eliminate the little fiefdoms that make it difficult for the region to plan and execute broadly on strategies for economic growth.

It would give taxpayers some relief. Have you looked at your property tax bill lately? You’ll find a lot of claims on your money.

We encourage Quinn to sign the bill. We encourage Dan Cronin to keep pushing so this movement stretches beyond DuPage.

 

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