The work to abolish some of DuPage County's more than 400 taxing bodies now can begin.
Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday signed into law legislation giving DuPage the authority to eliminate as many as 13 local governmental entities, including fire protection, sanitary and mosquito abatement districts.
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"I think it's landmark legislation," Quinn said after the signing ceremony at the county administration building in Wheaton. "It's a great model for other counties all across our state. What we want to do now is convince other counties that this is the way to go."
Illinois lawmakers already had created a panel -- the Local Government Consolidation Commission -- to develop ways to trim the state's huge number of local governments when county board Chairman Dan Cronin pitched the idea of having DuPage become a "test case" for the rest of the state.
Cronin has been championing consolidation as a way to save taxpayer money and improve services since before taking office in January 2011. As board chairman, the former state senator has been trying to develop momentum for eliminating some of the local governmental entities overseen by boards and commissions he appoints.
State law had to be changed because of how difficult it is to eliminate a taxing body, even if it's found to be financially unstable, duplicative or unnecessary. Some entities could be dissolved only with voter approval.
As part of the measure, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Cullerton and state Rep. Deborah Conroy, multiple steps must be followed to eliminate a government entity and transfer its responsibilities elsewhere. There's also a process for voters to save an agency if they protest.
The new law takes effect immediately.
"An overly complicated and unnecessary web of local and county services helps no one," Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, said in a statement. "By streamlining government services, we will reduce the cost to taxpayers and improve the quality of those services."
The DuPage taxing bodies 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.
Cronin said the county board must hold public hearings and demonstrate cost savings and other benefits of consolidation before taking action to eliminate a governmental entity.
"This is giving us the chance to take on some very, very serious responsibilities," Cronin said. "We welcome that, but we also recognize that it's not insignificant. There will be a lot of discussion and opportunity for people to talk about it."
The entities expected to be reviewed first by the county are the Century Hill Street Lighting District, Highland Hills Sanitary District and Fairview Fire Protection District.
While the new law is limited to DuPage, Conroy said she believes it will provide a boost to the state's larger consolidation effort. Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, the most of any state in the nation.
"I think this changed the conversation in Springfield," said Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat. "Prior to this, we haven't been able to pass a bill like this. I think you'll see more of it in the future."
In the meantime, Cronin said, his goal is to show "measurable results" by consolidating one or more of the 13 agencies.
"At the end of the day," he said, "I want to show that it can be done."
The state's Local Government Consolidation Commission was supposed to make its recommendations by the end of last year. On Friday, Quinn extended the deadline for the commission's final report to Sept. 30.