After touting consolidation as a way to save money and improve services, DuPage County officials soon will get the opportunity to prove it.
Gov. Pat Quinn within the next two weeks is expected to sign a measure that will give DuPage the authority to eliminate as many as 13 local governmental entities, including fire protection, sanitary and mosquito abatement districts.
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"Now the heavy lifting will begin at the county level," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said during a recent meeting with the Daily Herald's editorial board.
Cronin pushed for the legislation after learning how difficult it is to eliminate a taxing body, even if it's found to be financially unstable, duplicative or unnecessary. Some entities can be dissolved only with voter approval.
The plan outlines a multistep process for eliminating a government entity and transferring its responsibilities elsewhere. There's also a way for voters to save an agency if they protest.
Sponsored by state Sen. Tom Cullerton, the measure in April was approved by the Illinois Senate in a 51-0 vote. Then in May, the Illinois House voted 108-6 to send the plan to Quinn.
A spokesman for Quinn on Tuesday said the governor has until Aug. 9 to sign the legislation into law.
"He supports the legislation and intends to sign it," spokesman David Blanchette said. "It eliminates duplication and, therefore, it benefits the taxpayer."
While Illinois has been criticized for having more units of local government than any other state, eliminating them can be contentious and often fails.
Supporters say they believe giving DuPage the power to dissolve or consolidate other units of government could help jump-start a larger effort.
"The issue of dissolving levels of government has been coming up forever," said Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat. "Somebody had to break the mold and actually start. My goal would be to use their (DuPage officials') success."
Cronin says he wants DuPage to become the test case for the rest of the state.
"We will make sure it's done properly," Cronin said, "and we will be a demonstration model, hopefully, for the other 101 counties in the state."
The local governmental entities the state legislation allows DuPage to eliminate are overseen by boards and commissions that Cronin appoints. Cronin has said he's not necessarily looking to eliminate all 13 of them.
The taxing bodies that would be eligible for elimination are: Downers Grove Sanitary District, DuPage Airport Authority, DuPage Fair & Exposition Authority, DuPage Housing Authority, Fairview Fire Protection District, Glenbard Fire Protection District, Highland Hills Sanitary District, North Westmont Fire Protection District, Salt Creek Sanitary District, West Chicago Mosquito Abatement District, Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District, Wheaton Sanitary District and Century Hill Street Lighting District.