Category Archives: Streamlining Government

To Cut Costs, Suburbs Eye Police Dept. Merger

The municipalities of Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills are considering a proposed merger of their police departments—a move that would save the villages collectively an estimated $700,000 to $800,000. Earlier this year, the Village of Winfield studied consolidating police services with surrounding villages or contracting with the County Sheriff Department.

Consolidating entities and sharing services are options for municipalities looking to streamline government and more efficiently utilize taxpayer dollars.

Read about the proposed Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills police department merger and residents’ opinions on it in the Tribune article here.

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Chicago Inspector General Releases 63 ‘Budget Options,’ Proposes $3 Billion in Savings for 2012

Different year. Different administration. Same story: the city of Chicago has a fiscal mess to clean up.

To that end, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson releases a “Budget Options Report” meant to “support efforts to balance the budget by arming the public and City officials with context, basic data, and analysis needed to inform the tough choices ahead.”

The report includes some 63 options that would purportedly save upwards of $3 billion. Here are a few examples highlighted by the IG’s office:

  • Reducing the ratio of managers to non-supervisory employees in City government to save more than $100,000,000 annually
  • Eliminating all Tax Increment Financing Districts to increase tax revenues to the City’s general fund by an estimated $100 million annually
  • Increasing the work week of all City employees to 40 hours to save approximately $40 million annually
  • Implement Congestion Pricing for vehicular traffic that is estimated to generate an additional annual revenues of $235 million

Here’s the statement from the IG’s office:

September 26, 2011

Focused on meeting its mandate of promoting efficiency and effectiveness in City government, the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (IGO) today released its annual report of Budget Options for the City.

The IGO’s Budget Options report for the 2012 budget provides a total of 44 separate, stand-alone options to cut spending. This year’s report also includes 19 possible revenue generating options, including new or restructured taxes, tolls, and fees. In total, the 63 options detailed in the report provide background for nearly $3 billion in possible savings or new revenue for the City. Each option includes a brief overview of how proponents and opponents might argue each option, as well as a new section that notes important questions and discussion topics for the public and decision makers.

“In last year’s report, we provided data and analysis explaining that Chicago’s budget was fundamentally broken” said Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. “One year later, the situation remains difficult. The new Administration has candidly acknowledged the fiscal mess it inherited and has publicly committed itself to fixing it. This report is meant to support efforts to balance the budget by arming the public and City officials with context, basic data, and analysis needed to inform the tough choices ahead.”

The list of options is not meant to be an exhaustive one, and the inclusion of any option in this report is not, and should not be, construed as an endorsement by the IGO. The IGO intends to use public feedback and official responses to the report in order to provide periodic updates and corrections to this year’s report.

>> To view the online version of the budget options, which will include updates, and post your comments on the options go here.

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Filed under Fiscal Reform, Inspector General, Streamlining Government, TIFs

A Step Toward Streamlining Government in Cook County

Cook County Townships, Illinois State Archives

Illinois just took one small step toward streamlining government sprawl.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday, residents in individual townships in Cook County can now vote on whether to eliminate the office of highway commissioner – generally the township government post with the largest taxpayer-backed budgets.

Townships are a form of government that began in the 19th century, before population centers formed, and municipal and county lines were drawn.

As discussed on this blog before, townships can be necessary links between citizens and their government—particularly in rural areas where county and municipal governments cannot provide the community outreach needed to serve the needs of their citizens. But the role townships play in more urban areas—and whether that role is necessary—has been under attack and questioned by disgruntled taxpayers and growing number of lawmakers.

In townships, highway commissioners run the road district, and are responsible for caring for unincorporated roads not served by municipalities or counties.

However, townships with multiple municipalities located within its boundaries (with their own public works programs) have very little road to tend. Nonetheless, the costs of maintaining these roads can be very high.

For instance, the Northfield Township road district maintains only 19.8 miles of road but the road district is budgeted for $2.2 million in the 2011 to 2012 budget, with almost $1 million of that amount going toward worker salaries and benefits.

Under the new law, the board of trustees of a township in Cook County can submit a ballot measure giving voters the opportunity to eliminate the road district in that township. That ballot can appear in a general or consolidated election.

If a majority of voters say “yes”, the road district and the position of highway commissioner is eliminated as of the following January 1. The township board absorbs the duties of the highway commissioner, and can decide whether it wants to handle the duties of the highway commissioner itself, or if it should enter a contract with local municipalities and counties.

That means that if a township board decides to put the question on the ballot, taxpayers could be voting on the question as early as November 6, 2012.

With just over 1,400 townships in Illinois, beginning to streamline the townships of suburban Cook County is just a small step. But for Cook County residents who see their township road districts as inefficient and redundant government entities, this is a first step they will no doubt be eager to take.

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Filed under Cook County, Legislative Update, Streamlining Government, Townships

Statewide update—August 1, 2011

Chicago Sun-TimesTax-free-palooza: Music fest that hired Daley nephew got pass on tax, “Lollapalooza got its latest waiver from the city’s 5 percent amusement tax in the waning days of the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose nephew Mark Vanecko has been a lobbyist and lawyer for the festival promoters, helping to negotiate their current 10-year contract with the Chicago Park District.”

  • Chicago TribuneIn a sea of red ink, Emanuel focuses on small fixes, “By taking so much off the table before negotiations begin, Emanuel is virtually ensuring that balancing his first budget will be accomplished through a series of smaller-scale measures rather than sweeping fixes to cut costs or raise money.”
  • State Journal-RegisterQuinn vetoes COGFA health contract bill, “Quinn said the legislation if enacted into law would lead to “politicization” of the purchasing process, which would undermine the state’s ability to secure health care contracts at the best cost.”

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Statewide update—April 11, 2011

cyberdriveillinois.com

Daily HeraldTownship leaders’ benefits, “Taxpayers spent more than $1 million last year to cover health care benefits for 77 elected leaders in suburban townships. Those same officials paid nothing for their insurance coverage. An investigation of insurance costs for 50 suburban townships showed 29 offered health care coverage at no charge to elected officers who held full-time positions like supervisor, assessor and highway commissioner.”

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BGA Poll Results: Vote “Aye” On Cutting Chicago’s City Council

Get out the chain saw and start slicing away.

That’s the overriding sentiment of more than 100 BGA followers who participated in an ongoing online poll about streamlining the size of the Chicago City Council—one of the hottest civic discussions underway right now.

The BGA online poll asks two questions:

1) Do you think the number of Chicago aldermen should be cut in half?

2) If not, do you think the number of Chicago aldermen should be reduced?

  • In answering the first question, an estimated 62 percent respondents said “yes” to halving the number of City Council seats to 25 from 50, while about 29 percent said “no” and nearly nine percent said “maybe.”
  • And those who did not agree with eliminating the 25 aldermanic seats agreed the time is ripe to reduce the size of Chicago’s City Council. Nearly 62 percent of those taking the online poll said “yes,” while 29 percent said “no” and nine percent replied “maybe.” (Results are as of March 31.)

Beyond the raw numbers, BGA followers have a lot to say about this issue, which has been recently raised by Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and other civic leaders. Indeed, the issue is being debated and discussed on BGA President Andy Shaw’s Facebook page, which features at least 45 comments on the topic. The vast majority of those Facebook respondents are advocating for fewer Chicago aldermen but others offer a different point-of-view.

And if you haven’t taken the poll yet, please do.

Earlier this year, the BGA helped initiate the discussion on reducing the size of the Chicago City Council and is pleased that so many people are participating in this important and timely civic debate.

One thing appears certain: We haven’t heard the last of this issue.

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Reed, the BGA’s director of programming. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or email our investigative team at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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Filed under Chicago City Council, Streamlining Government

POLL: Cut Chicago’s City Council?

Is 50 aldermen 25 too many?

Should Chicago cut the size of its City Council? It’s a conversation the BGA initiated back in December, with a look at council sizes around the country. Last week, Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel indicated he was open to the idea as a way to cut costs.

Since then, newspaper reporters and columnists have been abuzz about the possibility of reducing the number of aldermen.

Mark Brown and John Kass both took issue with the idea, questioning whether its implementation would result in anything good.

The Sun-Times editorial board also examined the issue, questioning whether cutting the number of aldermen in half would reduce constituent services.

That’s what they’re asking. Here’s what we’re asking:

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Filed under Chicago City Council, Polls, Streamlining Government