Editorial: Important advances toward consolidating governments in Illinois

Nearly as mind-boggling as the number of zeros in the state's debt is the number of taxing bodies that have long besieged Illinois taxpayers.

You probably have heard this before: Illinois has nearly 7,000 taxing bodies, 35 percent more than the state with the second highest number - Texas.

That we've come to this point is ridiculous. That Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday signed legislation that expands the ability to eliminate some of these governmental entities surely is a step in the right direction.

Consolidation - sensible consolidation - of governmental bodies that exist only on paper, have ceased to serve a purpose or whose duties could be combined with or given to another taxing body, has been driven in Illinois by a task force in DuPage County.

Legislation that passed in 2013 allowed only DuPage County to pursue consolidation. Lake and McHenry counties acquired the authority later. Under legislation Rauner signed this week, all 102 counties in Illinois can dissolve local governmental bodies whose boards are appointed by the county. The new law also empowers townships whose boundaries fall within municipalities to seek voter approval to dissolve said townships.

A second measure he signed empowers townships in counties with fewer than 3 million residents (that is, every county but Cook) to ask voters to absorb road districts.

There is concern that Gov. Rauner's support of this effort is an implicit attack on education. Not so. In fact, it has nothing to do with school districts.

We've supported consolidation efforts on the township level before. Especially in cases where municipal borders over time have largely swallowed up the suburbs' unincorporated pockets, rendering the extra layer of township government unnecessary.

Simply put, Illinois taxpayers are paying for a lot of unnecessary administration.

We wholeheartedly support the direction the General Assembly is taking. But it shouldn't stop there.

Among the 7,000 units of government in Illinois are 852 school districts - and just 386 of them are unit districts that encompass K-12.

If you remove Chicago Public Schools from the equation, the 851 remaining school districts average fewer than 2,000 students. Some suburban districts have only one school and hundreds of pupils, yet a layer of administrators to oversee it.

Sensible consolidation could help chip away at the overhead without threatening the number of teachers.

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