At a recent township board meeting, Libertyville Township officials voiced concerns over the proposed Senate Bill 173, which, if approved, would create The Local Government Consolidation Commission to make a list of local governments in Illinois to be consolidated, according to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s website.
“On some level I think it’s really healthy that we are having this discussion,” said Libertyville Township Supervisor Kathleen O’Connor during a township board meeting. “Unfortunately it’s, ‘Are we really thinking through the legislation?’ that’s really the issue.”
O’Connor says the issue with Senate Bill 173 is “it doesn’t really seek the feedback or the participation of local government entities.”
“I think the problem with that is it would be great if they look at the issue and they pass something, but if they pass something and they don’t really think of the implications of it and plan for the implications. I’m not sure there’s going to be much savings to the average taxpayer,” she said.
Senator Terry Link, D-Waukegan, who is sponsoring the bill says if the bill is approved, the commission will be hosting multiple hearings and “at that time they will be seeking anybody’s input that they have.”
“There will be ample amount of time for all units of local government to express their feelings and I think the townships are putting the current way ahead of the horse here,” Link said.
If the bill is passed, Link says there will be a one-year period when the commission will seek input from local governments.
“There’s 7,000 local units of government in the State of Illinois, we are the largest amount in the United States,” Link said the commission would aim to reduce that number.
It is unclear, yet, what local governments would be consolidated under the proposed bill.
“They really don’t have any idea what this is going to look like,” O’Connor said. “What they might say is we might consolidate two townships here, we might abolish a library district and that could come under the responsibility of the township.”
Peggy Freese, Libertyville Township Assessor, echoes O’Connor’s sentiments.
“I don’t think anybody’s really thought up with a good plan and come up with some facts,” Freese said. “There’s nothing wrong with trying to save money in whatever ways we can do it. For me it’s ironic that they are going to a township instead of cleaning up Springfield.
“The representatives and the senators that have gotten raises every year forever, and they’ve never been voted down, why aren’t they looking at something like that? These guys are making some big bucks down there and they are taking those raises every year. There’s so many different ways to clean up government and there’s nothing wrong with that, it should be cleaned up; there is a lot of waste, but you have to look at the whole picture.”
O’Connor says the proposed bill could end up costing more to taxpayers in terms of the quality of service.
“There’s a lot to be said for the ability that a homeowner can come in and talk to the assessor face-to-face, or one of the staff members face-to-face, regarding the information they received on the assessed value of their home, instead of going to the county and them not really knowing what neighborhood you are talking about, and not having that relationship,” O’Connor said.
Libertyville Township Trusttee Richard Mittleman agrees that the proposed consolidation bill may impact some services such as social services.
“Obviously if you could run [social services] on the local level without the administrative overhead that would be the ideal situation but the further you get away from the local, the more bureaucratic or less efficient it is,” Mittleman said.
O’Connor is urging residents concerned about Senate Bill 173 to send a letter to state representatives and senators with the message: “If you do this, get it right.”