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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fixing Illinois

A couple of folks I've talked to, from around election time to now have had the same question, "how do we fix Illinois?"

There isn't an easy answer to making the state fiscally healthy, but there is an easy starting point; reduce the number of government taxing bodies. In this article I'll only concentrate on local bodies, not those run by the State, that's another bag of worms for someone with much more research time than I have.

Such a review is underway in Springfield, but I'm pretty sure that with the Democrats pretty well controlling everything in the capital, it will be ignored. The number of taxing and government bodies in the state is amazing, frustrating, and horribly redundant.

For instance, if you live in Gurnee, Il, you have most the following taxing bodies showing up on your property tax bill, though only two of the school districts will (the High School and either district 50 or 56 for elementary and middle school):

Village of Gurnee, Lake County, Lake County Forest Preserve District, Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, Warren Township, Warren Township Road and Bridge, Warren Gravel, School District 56, School District 50, High School District 121, Community College District 532, Gurnee Park District.

This is only what shows on a property tax bill. It doesn't include income taxes, sales taxes, special sales tax districts, etc.

As a comparison, I looked up my parents tax bill on line and it showed one school district (k-12), the community college district, the city and the county. That was it , a total of four taxing bodies instead of a dozen.

Looking at the tax bills for a similar house to my parents in Gurnee, Il the tax bill would be over $600 higher per year in Illinois vs. Wisconsin.

Part of that is because the two states fund education very differently. In Wisconsin, the State pays 66% (ish) of all K-12 costs, though the taxes it collects, while the local government pays the rest minus any federal aid. In Illinois the numbers are way different, with the state paying only 36%, and the locals covering everything but the federal aid amounts. This does account for a chunk of Wisconsin's higher income tax rates.

Back to the taxing bodies, though. Each of the groups above has it's own board of directors (or education), it's own chairman or superintendent, staff, etc. By reducing the number of taxing bodies just the duplicitive jobs could be reduced.

For instance, by unifying districts 50, 56 and High School District 121, and moving to 1 school board, 1 Superintendent and shared services for maintenance, bussing, food service, and administrative jobs. This alone would save a large amount of money.

Park disticts are another taxing body that shouldn't exist. Nearly everywhere else I've lived in the US (New Jersey, Virginia, Mississippi, Wisconsin and California) parks were handled by the city and/or County, not a special taxing body of it's own in each town.

Finally, the Township boards and bodies need to go away, they are antiquities from a bygone era that serve no real purpose anymore. All functions of those bodies, with their separate salary structures, boards and workers could be consolidated with either cities or counties, depending on their area. Most provide no tangable value to the resident anymore that couldn't be provided for less by one of the other existing bodies.

How would that new tax bill look if I had my way? For Gurnee it would be much simpler, the park district would become a responsibility of the Gurnee City Council, the 3 school districts would be unified, Warren Township, Warren Township roads and Bridges and Warren Township Gravel would become part of the County Board's responsibility, along with the Forest Preserve District. Because of strange multi-national water laws associated with the Great Lakes Basin the water board would have to remain intact.

So the new bill would be pretty simple:
City of Gurnee
Lake County
Gurnee Unified Schools
Community College District 532
Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency

I'm not sure how much the taxpayer would save in the short run, but by requiring a full review of all positions in each consolidated agency, removing the overlapping jobs, and setting salaries accordingly for those who end up demoted, it wouldn't be chump change.

Any other ideas on how to fix our screwed up state? John, the Marathon Pundit has some ideas.

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Blogger shoprat said...

More efficiency would be nice, but government is by its very nature non-efficient.

My father is a township supervisor in Michigan but the township board does not collect any taxes, and relies instead on revenue sharing (which all seems to go to the larger townships.) He does a lot though, mostly taking grief for things that he can do very little about and taking resident complaints up to higher levels.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ballot referendum, 2008 election.

No member of the General Assembly shall receive a salary or allowances after June 1, 2009 unless or until such time as the General Assembly has passed legislation reducing the number of units of local government from over 7,000 currently to less than 1,000.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Sage, that's a nice thought, unfortunately the Constitution of the State doesn't allow for the General Assembly to eliminate local government bodies. That has to be done on a local level by 60% of the voters.

The only way to change that is either through a constitutional amendment passed by 3/5's of both houses and then the general public or a constitutional convention.

11:24 AM  

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