A major reason for Illinoisans’ daunting property tax bills is the record number of local government bodies they’re supporting. Illinois, for example, is home to nearly 860 school districts, fifth-highest in the nation.
Meanwhile, those districts serve the fifth-lowest number of students per district at 2,400, which suggests Illinois taxpayers are paying for an overabundance of school districts.
That comes at no small cost. School districts in Illinois consume nearly two-thirds of all property taxes collected by local governments.
Unfortunately, Illinois ranks 8th in the nation in administrative spending as a percentage of education spending – meaning a substantial chunk of those property tax dollars never reach the classroom. Instead, a large portion goes to pay for administration and support functions.
By consolidating school districts, overhead would drop and allow local leaders to take immediate steps toward property tax relief.
In addition to too many school districts, Illinois is overrun with local government. At nearly 7,000 of them, Illinois is draped in more layers of government than any other state in the nation. These layers include townships, park districts, mosquito abatement districts and more.
Many of these government units overlap, in many cases performing the same services.
In addition to excess taxpayer costs, too much government provides refuge for waste and abuse: The McHenry County state’s attorney opened criminal investigations into three separate townships in the county this year.
Following one of the investigations, the state’s attorney described the “flawed” township form of government in a report as hotbeds of “incompetence, guile and impropriety.”
Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker should allow McHenry County taxpayers to rid their communities of such abuse by signing into law House Bill 4637. That bill would empower county residents to more easily dissolve their townships at the ballot box.
Additionally, state lawmakers should extend those consolidation powers to all Illinois taxpayers.