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Government Commission: Tax consolidation not necessarily a solution

illinois state legislation
Lawmakers argues legislation and push forward toward adjournment while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Ill. The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up its spring session shortly after midnight Saturday, but not before the Senate approved a $1 billion capital bill funding roads and bridge projects across the state. Legislative leaders headed home with several looming issues not addressed, a byproduct, members said, of the upcoming November election. | AP Photos

In 2011, the Illinois Legislature created a Local Government Consolidation Commission, charged with looking at how Illinois could reduce the number of taxing districts, become more efficient and less costly.

The main sponsor of the bill was state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, who said he was inspired by the fact Illinois has so many taxing districts, and in some cases, situations where government appears to be duplicated.

“Skokie, where I’m from, has six school districts,” Lang said recently. “It’s a town of 60,000 people. Do we need six school districts?”

Yet Lang admitted, “we’re not going to just collapse six school districts down to two.”

“We need to create incentives,” he said.

Three years since its creation, and almost two years after its first meeting, the Local Government Consolidation Commission released its report. Some considered the conclusions disappointing, because the report said “… the commission realized that simply reducing local governmental units does not necessarily result in a savings to taxpayers.

“When the goal is improving the efficiency of service while maintaining service quality and controlling costs,” the report read, “cooperation proves much more successful than efforts focused on reducing the number of local governments in an area.”

The report added that “working on a case-by-case basis allows cooperation and consolidation advocates in government to better understand the needs and reservations of the residents within the district.”

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, admitted some have interpreted that to mean the commission was against consolidation. But he insists that is not the case.

“We need the locals to step up,” he said. “It is a big problem. There are a lot of governments. We need citizens to put pressure on their local government.”

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