DuPage residents vote to consolidate local units of government
Voters in Naperville and surrounding townships voted in favor of government consolidation in nonbinding ballot questions.
Voters in DuPage County signaled their support for government consolidation on Nov. 8. Responses to ballot questions about consolidating layers of local government yielded overwhelming enthusiasm, the Daily Herald reported.
Illinois ranks among the worst in the country for the number of local government units, with nearly 7,000 across the state. These local government entities have the power to levy property taxes, which is one of the biggest reasons Illinois residents pay among the highest property taxes in the nation.
Though the ballot questions were nonbinding – meaning the results do not compel government to take any particular course of action – residents sent a clear message to their local officials.
One question asked whether Naperville residents approve of the dissolution of township governments if another unit of government could provide the same services at a lower cost. Unofficial vote totals show 78 percent voted yes, according to the Daily Herald.
The yeas also won overwhelmingly in two key service areas: road maintenance and mosquito abatement. The questions on the ballot asked whether voters wanted maintenance of unincorporated Naperville roads to be transferred from Naperville Township to the city of Naperville and whether they wanted nine townships – instead of the current 40 servicers – to manage mosquito abatement. Each of those consolidation questions gained more than 88 percent of the vote, the Daily Herald reported.
DuPage County has led the way in local government consolidation in Illinois. In 2012, DuPage started its Accountability Consolidation Transparency Initiative, or ACT Initiative, to promote consolidating government entities within the county. Since the inception of the ACT Initiative, DuPage has established ways to share services that officials project will reduce costs by over $116 million, has trimmed $20 million in expenses by reforming benefits for county workers, and has saved $6.9 million by joining with Kane County to provide youth detention services, according to the Chicago Tribune.
While those who oppose consolidation measures express skepticism over whether the ballot questions will become reality, others are optimistic.
“With such an overwhelming mandate, hopefully that will give our legislators the comfort they need to go out there and do the difficult work in Springfield,” Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said in a quote obtained by the Daily Herald.
The difficult work in Springfield Chirico could be referring to is House Bill 4501, which passed the Illinois House of Representatives 93-19 in April. HB 4501 used DuPage County’s consolidation efforts as one of its chief models. HB 4501 was sponsored by state Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, and was recommended by the Lieutenant Governor’s Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates. The bill is currently in the Illinois Senate.
Unnecessary and redundant layers of local government drive up costs, and the voters of DuPage County have taken action to address that. Township, city and state lawmakers should follow suit.