Rauner gives DuPage County green light to pursue consolidation effort
A new law will allow DuPage County to dissolve its election commission and transfer its functions to the county clerk’s office, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
DuPage County taxpayers could soon see $300,000 in annual savings under a bill signed into law July 23 by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In March, 56 percent of DuPage County voters supported a referendum to disband the DuPage County Election Commission and transfer electoral duties to the county clerk. While the referendum was nonbinding, voters’ ability to dissolve its election commission will become reality in January 2019, when the law – House Bill 5123 – goes into effect. Although DuPage County formed the election commission in 1973, it did not have the authority to eliminate it until Rauner signed HB 5123.
The county board will now consider an ordinance to officially dissolve the election commission when the new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2019, according to a DuPage County news release. Currently, DuPage and Kankakee are the only counties that have special-purpose units of government tasked with carrying out electoral functions.
DuPage expects to have dissolved a total of seven units of local government by summer 2019, including the election commission, as part of a larger effort under the county’s Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative.
It should come as no surprise that a majority of DuPage County voters are in favor of consolidation, as the elimination of the county election commission is estimated to save taxpayers $300,000 annually. This would come as a small but necessary relief to DuPage residents who currently pay some of the highest property taxes in Illinois.
At the signing ceremony in Wheaton, Rauner said the law was a positive step forward, noting Illinois possesses some of the highest property taxes in the nation and, uncoincidentally, more units of local government than any other state.
More than 1,400 of these government units are townships, archaic layers of government that are too often duplicative. Recently, an investigation into alleged impropriety by former Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Bob Miller led McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally to recommend the consolidation of townships, characterizing the form of government as “deeply flawed.”
Many school districts across the state are also ripe for consolidation. Nearly one quarter of all Illinois school districts serve only one school, while more than one-third serve fewer than 600 students.
DuPage should take advantage of its newly granted authority to eliminate its county election commission. Moreover, other municipalities should follow its lead and explore ways to ease the heavy burden on taxpayers. Dissolving inefficient townships, consolidating duplicative school districts and eliminating other unnecessary layers of local government would be welcome next steps.