Illinois has long had the most units of government in the nation - 6,963 at last count.
Do we need so many taxing districts to provide governmental services across the Land of Lincoln?
Supporters and opponents of the status quo can both find something to cheer about in a 90-page report released recently by the Local Government Consolidation Commission, which was created in 2011 by the Illinois General Assembly.
Chaired by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, the commission researched the situation and listened to local government officials.
The report acknowledges those officials’ concerns that the state not mandate consolidation and elimination of units of government, such as townships, municipalities, fire protection districts, library districts, drainage districts, mosquito abatement districts, and the like. In other words, let the decisions be made locally.
The report also points out that “simply reducing the number of local governmental units does not necessarily result in a reduction of costs to the taxpayer,” which is a position long held by those who support the status quo.
Both conclusions appear reasonable.
Equally reasonable are other conclusions that bolster the side of people who think Illinois needs to cut back on its governmental units.
The report found that the duties of some units of government overlap, and that it is very difficult or impossible to eliminate a unit of government, even when its purpose may no longer exist.
The report calls on the Legislature to review its laws so that every taxing body in the state has a legal mechanism, which does not contain unreasonable barriers, to dissolve or consolidate.
In conjunction with the report’s findings, Franks introduced a bill that would eliminate barriers to consolidation so that local governments that wish to merge have the legal authority to do so.
Government officials would be wise to review the Local Government Consolidation Commission’s report and voluntarily investigate mergers before budgetary concerns make them a necessity.