Senate Bill could stop drainage districts from draining tax dollars

Senate Bill could stop drainage districts from draining tax dollars

Illinois has more than 850 drainage districts. A bill in the Illinois Senate could eliminate some of those government units – and save the tax dollars that support them.

A proposal in the Illinois Senate could generate taxpayer savings by cutting some of the state’s nearly 7,000 layers of government.

Senate Bill 90, sponsored by state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, would allow some municipalities to adopt a resolution to dissolve their drainage districts. Oversight of the drainage system would be rolled into the county or municipality, and the county could either continue, reduce or eliminate the former district’s property tax levy.

Drainage districts typically serve agricultural land, with their main duty keeping ditches clear of debris. Their services could readily be merged with another unit of government that handles infrastructure through a public works department. That would make SB 90 a reasonable way to consolidate units of government and potentially save tax dollars.

Illinois has 859 drainage and flood prevention districts, according to the state comptroller. Compensation for drainage district commissioners, who oversee local drainage, flood control and levees, is paid by taxpayers, in addition to other administrative costs.

Single municipalities, multiple municipalities or counties with at least half of the drainage district’s area within their borders would be eligible to dissolve the district by passing a resolution under SB 90. The bill would still require a county resolution when municipalities within the county opt to eliminate their drainage districts.

The bill would allow the county government to continue collecting the drainage district’s property tax levy, but it would also create a mechanism for the county to reduce or eliminate the levy.

Drainage districts do not provide a unique service to local taxpayers and only serve as duplicative layers of government that bloat property taxes. Illinois has more government units than any other state in the nation, and around 1,800 more than Texas, the state with the second-highest number of government units. If signed into law, this bill could give some Illinoisans a small break from some of the highest property taxes in the nation by making these local government services more efficient.

Local government leaders are more responsive to local taxpayers, so state lawmakers should allow the dissolution of drainage districts to be a local decision. SB 90 would empower taxpayers to consolidate local government – and potentially save scarce property tax dollars.

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