Voters across northeastern Illinois approved a number of government consolidations during the November 2020 elections. In Lake County, voters backed a referendum to eliminate the office of the recorder, merging its duties with the office of the county clerk. Referenda to abolish road districts in Bloomingdale Township, Ela Township, and Elk Grove Township were also approved.
Local governments in the region face significant demand for their services, sometimes while experiencing revenue constraints. Consolidation can be one tool to address this challenge. ON TO 2050, the region’s comprehensive plan, encourages local governments to pursue partnerships, such as shared services, joint procurement, and consolidation.
Consolidating adjacent or overlapping units of local government has a variety of benefits: It can improve efficiencies, enhance services, and in some cases reduce costs. Success depends on local conditions and the support of local residents and civic leaders.
Across the region, other entities are currently exploring consolidation. In DuPage County, a reform program called the DuPage ACT (Accountability/Consolidation/Transparency) Initiative supports resource sharing and government consolidation, where appropriate. To date, the initiative has led to the dissolution of the Century Hill Street Lighting District, the Fairview Fire Protection District, and the Timberlake Estates Sanitary District. State statute allows all counties to pursue similar initiatives for consolidating certain local governments within their borders.
Consolidations, joint procurement, and shared services are not one-size-fits-all solutions and require careful consideration. As local governments grapple with the service demands and fiscal impacts of COVID-19, these strategies can offer opportunities to create more resilient communities for the future.