Early last year, Governor Rauner created a Task Force to consider the consolidation of Illinois’ many units of local government and the impact that unfunded mandates has had on them. The Task Force recently issued a report of over 400 pages with its findings and recommendations.
Not surprisingly, the Task Force found that state property taxes are high because of the sheer number of Illinois’ local governments. The Task Force also found that unfunded mandates were “the other main driver of high property taxes,” noting that the unfunded mandates were primarily imposed by the State. The most costly unfunded mandates related to public pensions, collective bargaining and interest arbitration, worker’s compensation, health insurance and prevailing wage laws. The Task Force noted that unfunded mandates added to the burden on local governments since 1992 and clearly outpaced inflation.
The recommendations of the Task Force, briefly summarized, are as follows:
- Enact a four year moratorium on creating new local governments, unless the new government is a result of consolidating two or more existing local governments.
- Empower voters to consolidate or dissolve local governments via referendum.
- Expand DuPage County’s pilot consolidation program to all 102 counties. This allows counties to dissolve or consolidate government units whose boards are appointed by the county.
- Allow all coterminous townships to consolidate with coterminous municipalities via referendum.
- Remove the limitation capping township size to 126 square miles. This would allow townships to consolidate with one another.
- Allow counties to retain their existing form of government following a successful referendum to dissolve townships into the county.
- Hold taxpayers harmless from township consolidation.
- Allow counties with fewer than 15,000 parcels and $1 billion in equalized assessed valuation to dissolve all of the elected township assessors and multi-township assessment districts into one, newly elected county assessor position and office – by majority vote of the county board or via citizen-led referendum.
- Protect the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act.
- Provide the Illinois State Board of Education flexibility to incentivize outcomes of school district consolidation.
- Encourage state agencies to facilitate regional sharing of public equipment, facilities, training, resources and administrative functions.
- Allow merger of general township road and bridge districts that maintain less than 25 miles of road.
- Modernize newspaper public notice mandates.
- Repeal or reform prevailing wage.
- Provide third-party contracting mandate relief for school districts.
- Implement physical education mandate relief for school districts.
- Provide driver education mandate relief for school districts.
- Make collective bargaining permissive, instead of mandatory.
- Eliminate minimum manning from collective bargaining.
- Use the federal definition for “catastrophic injury” under the Public Employee Safety Benefits Act.
- Allow arbitrators to use existing financial parameters of local government as a primary consideration during interest arbitration.
- Require an annual state review of unfunded mandates on local government.
- Merge downstate and suburban public safety pension funds into a single pension investment authority, as amended.
- Pass a constitutional amendment on unfunded state mandates.
- Request the Governor to use his amendatory veto power to insert “if economically feasible” language into any language authorizing new unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts.
- Create an “economic feasibility exemption” for units of local government, school districts, community colleges and institutions of higher learning.
- Give control of employee retirement benefits packages back to local governments for new employees.
The next step in this process is that the Task Force will be dissolved pursuant to statute following the issuance of this report. Task Force members will be invited to sponsor legislation to promote the Task Force’s recommendations. For additional information regarding these recommendations and topics, please contact Keri-Lyn Krafthefer or Jim Rock.
Post Authored by Keri-Lyn J. Krafthefer, Ancel Glink