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Illinois government must streamline, consolidate: Madeleine Doubek

That very well might be, but there’s another bit of reporting out there that made me nervous and I’m sure I’m not alone. The Daily Herald recently noted, “For the first time since Illinois created a cap on property tax hikes more than 30 years ago, local governments can seek the maximum 5% increase this year.” A 7% inflation rate in 2021 made this scenario possible.

I’m supporting 10 local governments with my property taxes and I know plenty of communities have even more. The Herald reported a mass maxing out could mean more than a billion dollars in new revenue for local governments statewide.

If my governments and others in the state do start maxing out en masse, watch out. With the cost of living already jumping, we just might see a tax revolt the likes of which we haven’t seen since the one in the suburbs that spurred the cap in the early ’90s.

So, then, why is it that we aren’t seeing any real effort at government efficiency and streamlining? It seems to me this is a significant untapped opportunity that could create oodles of voter goodwill for our elected officials who currently are knocking on our doors and invading our mailboxes and our television screens looking for support.

think about it Why am I paying taxes to a mosquito abatement district? I’ve got bites on my ankles indicating it hasn’t helped me much. Why am I paying for three school districts or, more specifically, why am I paying for three sets of multiple layers of school administrators and their pensions? Why am I paying for a township when I live in a municipality and a county that can or could provide all its services? Why can’t the county take up mosquito abatement? Whose salaries am I paying at that pesky mosquito government none of us ever notice? Why can’t Chicago and Cook County economize by making joint purchases for things they both need or sharing equipment they both need and use?

The possibilities are endless, if only our elected officials would set their minds to it. A few of the state lawmakers who prioritized government streamlining now are out of office or on the way out. A few others introduce the same school efficiency and consolidation efforts repeatedly only to see them languish.

Illinois has more governments than any other. Nearly 9,000, according to an inventory conducted by The Civic Federation. That includes more than 850 school districts alone. Yet, a task force created in 2019 to examine local government consolidation and develop solutions fizzled into oblivion with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Smart statewide officials who aspire to move upward would be wise to find a way again to champion this cause and see it through this time. Several state representatives and senators ought to take up the cause as a priority. And our local elected officials ought to be demonstrating and touting efforts at efficiency and doing all they can to avoid that max-out pot of tax gold that’s tempting them.

We can and should do better. I’m confident I’m not the only one worrying about the next piece of tax-related mail to country who thinks so.

Madeleine Doublek is executive director of Change Illinois, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for ethical and efficient government.

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