Taxpayers and communities will benefit from reforms suggested by a state task force to reduce unfunded mandates on local communities and reduce the number of local governments in Illinois, according to State Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon).
After nearly a year of study and public meetings, the Local Government and Unfunded Mandates Task Force issued its report Jan. 4. Righter was appointed to the Task Force in March 2015 by Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who acted as chairperson.
“This report has dozens of good, common-sense ideas, which can help reduce costs to local governments so they can operate more efficiently and – more importantly – so taxpayers aren’t paying for wasteful, duplicate or overlapping programs, and unnecessary stipends,” Righter said. “Illinois has too many units of local government, which has put the burden of funding them squarely on taxpayers, especially our property owners. If our state can adopt some of the recommendations in this report, we will not only move forward – but also, our working families will keep more of their own money in their pockets.”
The report notes Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the country. In addition, the report says “Illinois is the only state in the United States where a majority of its residents pay property taxes to three layers of general purpose local governments: county, township, and municipal.”
“Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government – the most in the country. Easing the burden of unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts, has to be at the top of the list,” Righter said. “Democrat majorities in Springfield over the past several years have refused to fund education at 100 percent, which has put an even bigger burden on local property taxes, with Illinois school districts now representing 64 percent of the property tax collections. Not only should we fully fund education, but relieve all local governments of mandates that Springfield won’t pay.”
Some of the suggestions in the report include:
– Enact a four-year moratorium on creating new local governments.
– Allow all townships in the state to consolidate with coterminous municipalities via referendum.
– Provide the Illinois State Board of Education flexibility to incentivize outcomes of school district consolidation.
– Provide driver education mandate relief for school districts.
– Pass a constitutional amendment on unfunded state mandates.
“Unfunded mandates and too many units of local government go hand in hand with higher costs of living for our residents – whether it be higher taxes or fees,” Righter said. “Some of the recommendations in this report might be politically unpopular, but if we are serious about helping our taxpayers and operating government efficiently, some of these things must be done.”
Click here to see the entire report.