The bill directed at the governor is a good first start to encourage consolidation
This editorial represents the consensus opinion of the editorial board of the Daily Herald.
You may need to take your glasses when you receive your property tax bill. The type should be small enough to fit all the tax agencies you support on a single sheet of paper.
There’s the state of Illinois, of course, county, municipal, and township government, park, forest preserve, and library districts, school districts (elementary, high school, unit districts, and community college districts), airport authorities, cemetery maintenance districts, fire protection districts, drainage districts, waterway agencies, hospital districts, soil and water conservation districts, health districts and more Again.
You won’t see all of this on your tax bill, but if you compare your bill to someone in a neighboring state, you’d definitely be envious.
The United States Census of Governments compiles data for its five-year count of taxing agencies in each state. The results will not be known until next year. But the most recent study reveals startling figures.
In 2017, Illinois had 6,963 tax agencies and approximately 13 million residents.
• The next closest was Texas with 5,147 taxing agencies — but twice as many people.
• California had three times the population, but only 4,425 local governments.
• Illinois had more than four times as many local governments as Florida, while the Sunshine State had 6 million more people.
An analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute notes that 61% of Illinois homeowners live under three levels of general-purpose local government (municipal, township, or county governments), and in 40 other states residents do not never have more than two levels. In some parts of the state, people pay 16 tax agencies.
It’s the overlap that’s most infuriating. We would never advocate for Illinois to go without street maintenance, library access, or fire protection, but the overhead of duplicating services in some cases and administering these tax agencies are more than ridiculous.
We have long advocated the wise consolidation of taxing bodies in the suburbs, and in recent years we have seen a small movement in this direction.
Legislation that has won broad bipartisan support is heading to Governor JB Pritzker’s office. It requires local tax agencies to review and report on their effectiveness every 10 years and to determine whether consolidating operations with another government unit would result in greater accountability and cost savings for taxpayers.
Let’s hope taxing bodies embrace the spirit of the law for the sake of their constituents rather than worry about the potential loss of local political power.