Consolidation of Governments

McHenry County Board member Donna Kurtz’ thoughts on consolidating local governments:

Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz

CURRENT SITUATION

It is heart-breaking to see an increasing number of friends and constituents in McHenry County express outrage and frustration as their taxes increase and government seems powerless to provide solutions.  Even worse is that many are considering moving away where taxes are affordable. As a result, I believe it is vital for local and state government officials to search and seize upon any tools that can help stem the tide of the overwhelming tax burden being shouldered by our citizens.

In April this appeared to have occurred when Representative Franks introduced HB229 and received the support of Representatives Wheeler, McSweeney and Senator Duffy. This bill would give the McHenry County Board the power to consolidate government taxing entities, where the County appoints more than 50% of the membership of that board. This legislation is based almost exactly on a bill successfully implemented in DuPage County in 2013, and is part of a larger effort they initiated and call the Accountability Consolidation Transparency (ACT) Initiative.

DUPAGE REFORM CREATES COST-SAVINGS

Through the ACT Initiative, and to a lesser extent, their new consolidation powers, DuPage County Board was able to consolidate functions as well as entire units of County Government. As a result of these efforts this year DuPage County is projecting “$116 Million in taxpayer savings through shared service assimilation, joint purchasing, benefit reforms, and modifications to procurement practices”.
DuPage Act Initiative
Although DuPage is significantly larger than McHenry County, and has more potential budget to cut, giving McHenry County Government tools to conduct consolidation would seem like a no-brainer. After all, why would we not want to have the power to rein in government spending and expansion–particularly when McHenry County is one of the highest per capita taxed counties in the USA, and within our own County we have over 300 government entities.

DERAILED LEGISLATION FOR MCHENRY COUNTY

Unfortunately this legislative effort was derailed in the Senate by Senator Althoff. According to her, consolidation efforts are appropriate except when it comes to the McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD) and the McHenry County Mental Health Board (MHB). She sought to modify the original legislation to provide these exceptions and then undertook procedural actions to delay the vote and jeopardize the passage of this bill.

Both she and County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller’s excuse for not supporting HB229 is that any unit of government initiated by voter referendum, i.e. the Conservation District and the Mental Health Board, should not be subjected to any changes unless the voters approve this. However, this concern does not make sense because HB229 legislation supports taxpayer empowerment by requiring only 200 signatures to place a referendum vote on the ballot to reverse a County Board decision to consolidate or dissolve.

VALUE OF REFORM OCCURS BY BEING ON-GOING

In addition, Senator Althoff and Chairman Gottemoller have expressed concerns that the results of consolidation, via this legislation, has provided minimal value with DuPage County, in which only two units of government have been consolidated. What they fail to see is that consolidation of government (particularly in a state like Illinois, where historically it easy to create new standalone government entities, but almost impossible to change or consolidate once established) should be an on-going process similar to the kind of reassessment and re-engineering that we see in well managed companies.

MANY SERVICES ARE SUPPORTED

Finally, some have voiced concern that once the County Board has the power from this legislation to dissolve units of government, the MHB and/or MCCD would be at risk. However, eliminating the value and the services provided by these organizations is neither practical nor realistic. There is wide spread community support to address the increasing needs to serve McHenry County’s mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and drug and alcohol substance abusers. In addition, because the State may reduce funds for these services by over $100 Million in FY2016—any county board member who would seek MHB program elimination is likely to generate a high level of resistance and anger from both the community and other board members.

Similarly, McHenry County values its open spaces, areas of natural beauty, and hiking and camping areas, and most residents realize that protecting these unique areas promotes property value and precious groundwater recharge. Again, eliminating these vital services would require a broad level of support in the community and on the County Board—and that simply does not exist. As stated before, even if in the unlikely event that the County Board decided to dissolve a unit of government, this legislation has a fail-safe provision that allows residents to save that government entity through voter referendum.

REFORM CAN LEAD TO COST-EFFECTIVE SERVICE DELIVERY

However, what I believe our citizens do want are less costly ways to deliver valued services by improving efficiency, reducing duplication, and encouraging resource sharing. Consolidating current standalone government entities with existing County infrastructure offers the potential to dramatically reduce administrative costs by merging functional areas such as IT, HR, procurement, security, and finance as a means to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

In addition, adoption of standard financial, HR, budgeting, procurement, and ethics policies can potentially provide invaluable oversight controls that promote best practices and economies of scale. Thus, with fewer funds being used for overhead, more funds could be used, without raising taxes, to address the mission of the governing unit in question. Consequently, the potential for more tax dollars to address conservation; as well as more funds to address mental illness/developmental disabilities/drug and alcohol would provide tremendous benefit given the status of shrinking State and Federal funds.

NO SACRED COWS

A final sticking point in this mess for me as been the illogical defense of MCCD and MHB as sacred cow institutions that must be protected from any consolidation efforts. When elected officials like Senator Althoff and Chairman Gottemoller call for exceptions for specific units of government, instead of protecting the existence of a unit of government, they undermine that organization’s credibility for not supporting standards that will provide greater efficiencies and cost-effectiveness. It also calls into question whether this is more about protecting fiefdoms and less about serving the tax paying public.

THE COURAGE FOR CONSTRUCTIVE REFORM

With an impending financial crisis looming ever larger in Illinois and with taxes spiraling out of control, we need more elected officials like Franks, Wheeler, McSweeney, and Duffy who understand that the status quo has not been working for some time and they have the courage to make constructive reform for our state and local government the highest priority.


Comments

Consolidation of Governments — 19 Comments

  1. If elimination of Townships is projected to reduce overall property tax burden, there should be local data available to support that assertion.

    I don’t believe it to be true.

    The government HAS the tools to provide solutions: decrease spending.

    1. Decline projects which are made to cost more than 115% of fair value by PW compliance mandates.

    2. Pressure schools to consolidate: shut down half empty buildings that are kept open at full capacity for growth which can never occur at 4% property tax rates.

    3. Don’t spend another dime of taxpayer money on consultants or studies for SPENDING projects (Randall Road, MCC, libraries, Valley Hi) until each taxing body orders at least some modestly priced efficiency studies on cost-cutting recommendations.

    4. Penalize tifs. Tifs steal money from taxpayers and give it to developers. We can survive without development but we cannot survive 4% property tax rates.(And existing businesses who were NOT favored with public funding will appreciate the equitable treatment. They may be able to survive if not pitted against favored developers getting chosen as winners by municipal managers).

    There must be some mechanism whereby discretionary County payments to municipalities may be re-calibrated on an inverse ratio to amount of tif dollar intake.

  2. Donna this legislation is a$$ backwards.

    The County should get the numbers and facts together, present those saving numbers to us all, then let us vote on whether we want consolidation or not.

    We voted them in, we should vote them out. Not self serving County politicians who have their own payback agendas and maybe trying to create their own personal fiefdoms.

    While Pam and Joe were wrong about allowing MCCD to raise taxes even higher, they are right on the referendum issue. Voters shouldn’t have to back door referendum, the county should justify first, then we vote no matter what.

    Frankly the county board hasn’t shown much over site as they keep passing their budgets with hardly a whine.

    Fact: want lower tax bills, cut services, and good luck with that.

    Consolidation will save pennies at best, more likely it will create bigger gov agencies that historically have always cost more.

  3. No sacred cows. That’s right.

    Thank you Donna!

    Somebody gets it.

    Why not allow all units of government to be consolidated if that’s their prerogative?

    Why should certain units be exempted?

    If it’s by popular vote of all said units affected, what’s the big deal?

  4. DuPage Co projected savings?

    Why does that word projected used by a gov agency bother me?

    Maybe because gov projections are almost always wrong?

    Let me know what they actually saved, and lets see the attached Waltz also.

  5. We need some government, how much will be debated till the end of the earth.

    As tax payers we must take away some of the power/decision making away from our elected officials, spending and setting tax rates.

    These two issues were a problem that were never addressed properly when the Constitution was written, but should have been, but the partisan nonsense started already way back then of over spending and borrowing to buy votes.

    Spending must always match actual revenue available at the time, ie what we are willing to give in the form of taxation.

    Borrowing should only be allowed for World Wars, not police actions like we’ve had since 1945.

    Even weather disasters should be budgeted for, they’re regular enough, and we should be able to budget for them to some degree.

    Individual Income tax rates and Property tax rates should not be roller coasters of ever changing rates that just leads to insecurity for the tax payer not knowing what is coming next from the elected to buy votes.

    The class warfare thing must be put in the grave; it’s just dividing the country more and could lead to more and more divisive actions in the future.

    We all need skin in the game, and it should be equal skin.

    I would propose we force our elected by Petition, which is allowed in the constitution, to enact a Balanced Budget Amendment that has the income tax rate and/or property tax rate control tied to it.

    The Congress, State, and Local gov agencies will only be allowed to adjust the income or property tax rates after a 2/3 approval vote within its legal boundary, ¾ vote would be better.

    Our choice with a strong majority vote behind changes, not the Pacs controlling the partisan as the wind blows hacks.

    I’d prefer a Flat income tax with no deductions at least till we start paying off the debt in a manner that has a time limit attached to it. Gov agencies that use Property taxes should have no levy power, whatever the home value up or down; the rate we voted on determines what is paid in taxes.

    Not enough as most elected seem to keep saying, then come to us with your yearly recommendations and let us vote 2/3 for any change from the year before.

    No more passing on our debt to future generations should be allowed.

    We borrow almost 40% for the Fed Gov now that must stop ASAP.

    To not propel the economy into the dumpster any farther, we should demand freezing the spending at the 2014 rates or a small cost of living, every year till spending is lower than actual revenue.

    We can budget a pay back of the added debt which will be pushing 20T by then.

    Yawn.

    I listening for other suggestions, got one?

  6. Donna it really is now or never for you to run. You have the experience the name ID and the fiscal background to lead us here in McHenry County. You must run against Senator Pam Altoff . Please we need change.

  7. This post comes from an elected official who filled the County Board Room with her supporters to intimidate the County Board to RE-VOTE on turning down a waste of taxpayers dollars on Obama Care advisors!!

    I submit to you she is an ‘opportunist’ of the highest degree.

    I may disagree with Althoff on a her votes to support the Democrat Social Agenda but on the subject of requiring citizens to undo the bad they have done (708 Board and MCCD) I have to agree.

    The problem is the voters and the lack of moral fiber in many of the candidates who run for office.

    Insofar as the Kurtz comment:

    “There is wide spread community support to address the increasing needs to serve McHenry County’s mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and drug and alcohol substance abusers. “

    I have yet to find a taxpayer who supports anything we cannot afford.

    Kurtz’s support for the waste of taxpayer dollars on healthcare advisers is an indication to me that she is not credible!

  8. Note to Ms. Kurtz:

    The numerous fiscal crises that affect this state at every level can not and will not be solved in our lifetime.

    Smart people (and businesses) are already aware of this, and that is why they and I are leaving this tax and spend hellhole of a state.

    Abe Lincoln must be spinning in his grave.

  9. It should be noted whenever people say that these two agencies ( MCCD and Mental Health Board) should be excluded because they were created via a voter referendum, remind them that the referenda were both over 40 years ago and virtually no one still lives in the county who was around then and voted in those elections.

    Shouldn’t there be sunset provisions for these types of things?

    Also, any referendum to reverse those decisions requires about 9000 valid signatures to get on the ballot today.

    Finally, a negative vote on any such referendum also eliminates the levies for each agency.

    A reorganization by the County Board pursuant to HB 229 would allow the levies to remain and let the county figure out how to best restructure them if at all.

    I doubt the county would take any action relative to the MCCD as that would require us to go to a forest preserve district in which each county board member would serve as commissioner and could receive additional compensation, as they do in Lake County.

    Right now the MCCD Board members are not paid.

    btw: Townships are not covered in HB 229.

    That is a separate consolidation movement that would require approval by the voters of each township affected.

  10. I am right behind you Joe.

    Seriously, I am packing up as we speak (or in between key strokes) and heading South.

    This state just keeps getting uglier and uglier.

    The ONLY way out is to make this a ‘sin state.’

    Legalize the dope,tax it.

    Legalize prostitution, tax it.

    Charge a fee for illegals to come here without threat of deportation.

    An Illegal Alien Card of sorts… pay $1000.00 and if non-documented, no worries, you get a “Right To Work” pass so you can keep taking our young H.S. and college kids jobs.

    Let auto dealerships sell cars on Sundays, charge a “Sunday Sales” surcharge to the dealerships, make it very reason able, say $500.00 a dealership statewide.

    Legalize land based Casino’s……slot machines in every bar.

    My guess the state would be solvent within twenty four months.

  11. Bravo to Kurtz!

    NO SACRED COWS! ………

    she’s kinda reminds me of Mr. Kurtz’s …… in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ final lines …….

    “The horror! The horror!” …………..

    Illinois Misgovernment is a horror all right ……

  12. The County Board Appointments section of the McHenry County website has some information and is a good starting point.

    http://www.co.mchenry.il.us/county-government/departments-a-i/county-board/county-board-appointments

    Compare that to the DuPage County website.

    http://www.co.dupage.il.us/CountyBoard/AppointiveBodies.aspx

    On the DuPage County website, each of the listed agencies has a hyperlink to a county board web page listing details of that agency (McHenry County has not information for some agencies):
    – Website of agency
    – Contact name & address & phone for agency
    – Location address (contact may be at a different location than the agency)
    – Responsibilities of appointees
    – Meeting Schedule of appointees
    – Term of appointees
    – Appointed By
    – Compensation of appointees
    – Qualification Criteria for appointments
    – Authority (ILCS statute) for agency
    – Appointees (names, first date of appt, term expiration, position)
    – Financial Information (annual financial report)

    Here are all the agencies to which DuPage County appoints at least one trustee.
    – Century Hill Street Lighting District
    – Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)
    – Community Development Commission
    – Community Services Block Grant Board (CSBG)
    – Commuter Rail Board – Metra
    – Downers Grove Sanitary District
    – DuPage Airport Authority
    – DuPage Board of Review
    – DuPage Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
    – DuPage County Board of Health
    – DuPage County Election Commission
    – DuPage County Ethics Adviser
    – DuPage County Ethics Commission
    – DuPage County Hearing Officer
    – DuPage County Historical Museum Foundation Boare
    – DuPage County Impact Fee Advisory Committee
    – DuPage County Investigator General
    – DuPage County Public Aid Committee
    – DuPage Expanded Board of Review
    – DuPage Housing Authority
    – DuPage Water Commission
    – DuPage Workforce Board
    – Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB)
    – Fair and Exposition Authority
    – Fox Valley Park District
    – Glenbard Fire Protection District
    – Highland Hills Sanitary District
    – Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District
    – Naperville Fire Protection District
    – North Westmont Fire Protection District
    – Regional Planning Commission
    – Regional Transportation Authority
    – Roselle Fire Protection District
    – Salt Creek Sanitary District
    – Sheriff’s Merit Commission
    – Suburban Bus Board – PACE
    – University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Board
    – Warrenville Fire Protection District
    – West Chicago Fire Protection District
    – West Chicago Mosquito Abatement District
    – Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District
    – Wheaton Sanitary District
    – Yorkfield Fire Protection District
    – Zoning Board of Appeals

    Here is the press release announcing the the DuPage County ACT initiative.
    http://www.co.dupage.il.us/Content.aspx?id=36744

    +++++++++++++++++++

    Going beyond agencies to which the county appoints members / trustees, are all the taxing districts in County.

    Cook County enacted a debt disclosure ordinance in 2012 requires County taxing districts to report debt and financial information to the County, which the county makes available to the public.

    Not sure if McHenry County has the authority to issue such an ordinance.

    Here is the Cook County Treasurer website which allows the public to view the reported information.

    http://www.cookcountytreasurer.com/taxingdistrictsearch.aspx

    The website has several helpful financial metrics for taxing districts, but does not break out bond debt, rather lumps it in with, “Sum Total of All Debts and Liabilities from most recent financial statement.”

    Pension debt is broken out, but school district TRS pension debt is not included (that’s considered a state debt).

    Here is the wording on that website:

    “Taxing Districts’ Financial Statements and Disclosures

    Taxpayers may conduct a search by Property Index Number (PIN) or Taxing District name to view debt disclosures and download any financial statement uploaded by a particular agency.

    Pursuant to Section 2-243 of the Cook County Code of Ordinances, commonly referred to as the Debt Disclosure Ordinance, taxing districts are required to provide their most recent financial statements and make certain other financial disclosures to the Cook County Treasurer’s Office, in electronic format, on or before the last Tuesday in December.

    Please refer to the uploaded taxing district financial statements for additional information regarding the financial disclosures that appear below. If any sub-agencies upload financial information, please be aware that the corresponding primary agency financial information should include sub-agency information.

    If your taxing districts’ financial statements and disclosures do not appear on our website, please contact that taxing district directly for more information.

    Search by Property Index Number (PIN)

    Displays the Taxing Districts according to your PIN and each district’s uploaded financial data and financial statements.

    Also displays copies of installment tax bills.

    Search by Taxing District

    Search for a specific Taxing District by name or browse all Taxing Districts to view uploaded financial data and financial statements.”

    +++++++++

    Here is the website the taxing districts use to file the Cook County reports.

    http://ddo.cookcountytreasurer.com

    “Taxing Districts’ Financial Statements and Disclosures

    In November 2012, the Cook County Board of Commissioners enacted an amendment to Section 2-243 of the Cook County Code of Ordinances (commonly known as the Debt Disclosure Ordinance and hereinafter referred to as the “Ordinance”).

    If you represent any unit of local government, school district or community college district with the power to levy taxes, then your Agency is a Taxing District and falls within the scope of the Ordinance.

    The Ordinance requires Taxing Districts to provide this Office with their most recent financial statement and a number of other written financial disclosures, all in electronic format.

    Pursuant to the Ordinance, these financial statements and disclosures will be made available to the public via the Cook County Treasurer’s Office website.

    Please refer to the Ordinance for details as to your Taxing District’s obligations thereunder.

    In order to ensure your Taxing District’s compliance with the Ordinance, please log in below to upload your Taxing District’s financial statement(s) and other required disclosures.

    If you have any questions concerning your Taxing District’s online submissions, please contact the Cook County Treasurer’s Office by telephone at 312.443.5100 or by e-mail at [email protected].”

    ++++++++++++++++

    There is other governmental unit, agency, and taxing district information which should be easy for taxpayers to locate and view, such as current salaries and benefits, collective bargaining agreements, retiree healthcare plan information, etc.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Overall it’s nearly easy enough for taxpayers to access all the information they need to make informed analysis and decisions, which Meredith Whitney discovered years ago, although her prediction was premature, it may eventually come to fruition.

  13. Mark has done more to inform / educate the citizens than any local politician in recent history!

    I thank you, Mark and thank Cal for providing this forum!!

    Those of you who read this blog need to spread the

    information provided to your fellow citizens to result in ‘more informed’ voters.

  14. Would consolidating MCCD and the MHB give the County Board more power?

    What expertise do the board members have to make decisions regarding mental health?

    Is it the same “expertise” as those who voted down the ACA grant?

    If so, that’s scary.

    For a County Board that constantly touts “less government” they sure have a lot of members.

    Why not reduce the County Board?

    How about the tax payers stop paying for health insurance benefits to County Board members?

  15. To answer your questions Just curious, the County Board could just set up committees for these functions over which they would have more oversight.

    Currently statutes prevent county boards from having much to say about these types of agencies which have their own separate levies.

    Also, I think the County Board could function perfectly well with just 12 members.

    We do not have to wait for another census either if we just kept the districts the same.

    I could be done right away by referendum.

    There would be a carry over for those Members whose terms have already been set or renewed so it would go initially to 18 members and then to 12 two years later.

  16. Would salaries be increased proportionately so each of the remaining County Board members would be earning more than $50,0000.

  17. As, I’ve said many times, I can’t help but think that those advocating to reduce the number of county board members are missing a MUCH bigger picture.

    A county board chair at large + a 12 member board is an open invitation for a hostile takeover.

    I envision a Madigan type setting up shop in MC with his checkbook and literally owning county govt. inside of two or three terms.

  18. I have NO idea what Paul is talking about.

    As to Cal’s question, reducing the size of the County Board would not be much of a cost savings measure.

    What it would do is provide for more efficient deliberative bodies with fewer people as it is really difficult to have a discussion among 24.

    Generally only about half really participate.

    Also, committee sizes could be reduced to 5 instead of 7.

    Having the extra people doesn’t do much for the discussions.

    This way each County Board member would have a similar number of committee meetings as currently so the salaries would not have to double, but it is fair to say that they would have to go up somewhat from the current figure.

    It would also mean that those people who can’t muster the votes would not be elected, so less dead wood.

    One of the features we have with the current Board size is that there are a number of people who rarely participate in the discussions but still have a vote. A smaller more active group would be better.

  19. What are your thoughts on a popularly elected chairman, Mike?

    As a voter I love the idea.

    Right now we have no say if our district has only one candidate for County Board.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *