Comparing County Government Efficiencies

This comes from a report submitted to the Management Services Committee of the McHenry County Board:

Bellwether Benchmarking

McHenry County participated in a Multi-County Benchmark comparison to assess the performance of departments and operations. Seven Illinois counties participated in the study, including

  • Will
  • St. Clair
  • Madison
  • Peoria
  • McLean
  • Knox

Bellwether LLC compared the counties using publicly available information for the purposes on illuminating commonalities and differences across participating

Here are the following highlights of McHenry County successes:

  1. Department of Health: Lowest cost per capita of the counties while providing the second most Food Service Inspections (5,512), and the most Well and Waste Water Inspections (2,175).
  2. Coroner: Of the five counties that provided information, McHenry County’s number of Autopsies (99) is the lowest by a substantial amount. Total Investigations (1,602) ranks fourth, only more than McLean
  3. Facilities: McHenry County is the only county that does not dedicate staff to landscaping. Eighty percent (80%) of time is dedicated to general maintenance, providing core services to County buildings.
  4. County Auditor: Offers more services than all but one county, including expenditure and revenue budget preparation, and financial accounting and reporting. The only service McHenry County does not offer that is offered by the other three large counties (Madison, St. Clair and Will) is OMB A-133 Preparation, Support External Audits.
  5. Information Technology: The IT Dept. serves 1,670 total PC’s, only second to Will County. There is a large difference in services to mobile devices, but the total is relatively average compared to other counties that participated in the study.
  6. The Veterans Assistance Commission serves by far the most veterans each year (4,609), over 1,600 more than the second highest county.

Here are the following improvements that McHenry County has addressed to correct inefficiencies:

  1. Highway Transportation paid by far the most per mile/total for road salt treatment in 2014. Due to bulk purchasing, however, the cost will drop more than 30% in 2015.
  2. Planning and Development did not receive any new commercial construction permits. However, the number is expected to increase after reducing commercial permit fees and increasing permit application efficiency.

Here are the following changes to expect from McHenry County in the future to improve efficiencies:

  1. Out of the seven counties that participated in the study, the McHenry County Probation Department is the lowest per capita. As reforms to the department are implemented, we expect the expense budget to increase. The Department is working with Court Services to reduce the rate of incarceration among low-risk drug offenders who will require additional probationary services. Reforms will be particularly prevalent among juvenile offenders.
  2. Dr. Anne Majewski, County Coroner

    Dr. Anne Majewski, County Coroner

    Coroner: Not only does the Coroner have the lowest per capita budget but additional savings will be realized next year due to reductions in overtime and changes to staff to improve efficiency.

Next Steps

  • Work with Management Services and entire County Board
  • Explore additional opportunities to measure McHenry County performance both internally and externally

1) Continue Bellwether measurement relationship

2) Examine ICMA [Internationanal City/County Managers Association] Insight

  • Consider combining Bellwether measurements and budget performance measurement into a single management and communication document


Comparing County Government Efficiencies — 12 Comments

  1. What would be meaningful is a comparison of salaries (including benefits) per employee (separate table for those elected).

  2. Farthest north, salt usage should be the highest.

    Will county would be the only county far enough north to even compare to.

  3. Of course, that’s only McHenry, but the other counties may post the info as well.

  4. Why were those counties chosen for the comparison as opposed to closer counties like Lake, Cook and DuPage?

  5. Such benchmarking is a good start, but only a start. It’s the kind of thing people on the OUTSIDE can do.

    People on the INSIDE — elected officials — can do more.

    The job of every elected official is:

    * first, to make a list of every service being provided

    * second, to eliminate services that are not the job of that government, and

    * third, to examine each service in detail to see if it can be provided at a lower cost or subbed out.

    With regard to the third point, a functional audit and comparison with private industry is useful.

    Governments are notoriously inefficient, so to compare your government only with other governments is a mistake.

  6. No matter, as high taxes and political corruption continue to drive more people and businesses out of Illinois, while taking their wealth with them.

    And the Great Exodus from Illinois continues …

  7. Cook does not seem terribly relevant, but certainly Lake and DuPage are.

    Kane County would be relevant, too.

  8. Remember when you look to Kane County for comparison, Aurora is an entity unto itself.

    It even has its own election commission.

    The County Clerk has no involvement with the Aurora election commission, other than coordination.

    Number comparisons are a dangerous thing.

    Unless you fully understand all the details behind the numbers, conclusions based on number comparisons can have disastrous comparisons..

    Population 2014

    McHenry 307,823
    Will 685,419
    St. Clair 265,729
    Madison 266,560
    Peoria 187,319
    McClean 174,061
    Knox 52,069

    When the 2014 census numbers are compared to 2013, only Will County gained people – all other lost.

  9. Which counties have their own nursing home?

    Their own 708 Board?

    Their own tax for Seniors?

    A separate Conservation board?

    If they have a county park district or conservation district, does it have its own police force?

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