Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, and last week, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti visited Woodstock to thank two of them for cutting costs by working together.
McHenry County’s Department of Planning and Development and the McHenry-Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District are on a list of several dozen governments highlighted by Sanguinetti’s office for sharing resources. Both were recognized by Sanguinetti during an event at the McHenry County Administration Building April 18.
“On your own power, at the local level, you guys started shaving the fat on your own,” Sanguinetti said. “… You guys are one of the examples that we bring up.”
With 6,963 units of local government, Illinois has the most in the nation, easily eclipsing second-place Texas’ tally of 5,147. Sanguinetti was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner to head up a state task force on government consolidation.
“We found we were No. 1 for things we did not quite want to be No. 1 at,” Sanguinetti said.
Still, she said, the task force “discovered something that was truly magnificent” when it came to cooperation between certain local governments. McHenry County subcontracts a staff member from the SWCD to review wetland permit requirements, a joint venture that earned them one of 27 spots in the 2016 Journal of Local Government Shared Service Best Practices.
“Since 2012, we’ve had this agreement with the SWCD, and over that time, I’m sure we’ve saved a half-million dollars,” said Joanna Colletti, water resources manager and chief stormwater engineer for the county’s Department of Planning and Development.
The Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates put out a report in 2015 urging local governments to cut costs by sharing services and asking state lawmakers to make it easier to merge government entities. Locally, a state-mandated consolidation of emergency dispatch centers in McHenry County means the Woodstock Police Department will shut down its telecommunications division May 1.
Sanguinetti placed part of the blame for high property taxes in Illinois on redundant layers of government. Her home in Wheaton, she said, is subject to 16 different taxing bodies.
“Local government for me means that 16 units of local government represent all 4-feet-11-inches of me,” she said. “And that’s a lot of different layers, a lot of hands in the pockets of taxpayers when you think of all those units.”