May 23, 2012
UPDATE: On Thursday, August 2, 2012, Governor Quinn signed legislation to require all counties to release their financial statements within six months of the end of their fiscal year as Public Act 097-0890. The legislation takes effect upon becoming law.
On May 11, 2012 the Illinois House of Representatives joined the Illinois Senate in voting to eliminate an exemption for Illinois’ largest and smallest counties from releasing their financial statements in a timely fashion. The Civic Federation has long supported this common sense reform that will make all 102 counties in the State subject to the same financial reporting requirements.
The Federation commends Senators Pamela Althoff and Linda Holmes and Representatives Jack Franks and Dwight Kay for sponsoring Senate Bill 3508 and Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka for supporting it. We urge Governor Pat Quinn to sign the bill into law.
Under current law (55 ILCS 5/6-31003), counties in Illinois with populations under 10,000 and over 500,000 are not required to produce audited financial statements and submit a financial report to the Illinois Comptroller within six months of the end of the fiscal year. There is no sound public policy reason for exempting large counties like Cook, Lake, DuPage and Will Counties from producing timely annual audits. Delays in releasing government audited financial statements hinder informed budget discussions and accountability because the public cannot access the information they need to assess the government’s financial condition.
As the Civic Federation has highlighted in previous reports, Cook County has had ongoing delays in releasing its audited financial statements, publishing them as much as a year later. Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will Counties all have the same December 1 to November 30 fiscal year. Thus, to follow the minimum best practice of releasing financial reports within six months of the end of the fiscal year, each county would need to release its statements by May 31 of the following year. While DuPage and Lake Counties have achieved this goal in each of the past five fiscal years, Will County only achieved it in one of the last five and Cook achieved it in none of the past five. The following table shows the release dates of financial statements for the four counties with the largest populations in Illinois. The release dates that fall outside the six month best practice standard are shaded.
In its analysis of the FY2012 Cook County budget, the Federation encouraged the Preckwinkle administration to address this issue when they release their FY2011 financial reports regardless of whether legislation to make the six month deadline mandatory was passed by the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 3508 also requires most government entities in the State of Illinois to send in electronic format the same annual financial statements they previously have been required to submit to the Comptroller. The Comptroller is required to post the reports on the Internet no later than 45 days after receiving them. The legislation provides for late fees for tardy reports.
 Alexander, Brown, Calhoun, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Henderson, Jasper, Pope, Pulaski, Putnam, Schuyler, Scott, and Stark Counties all have populations under 10,000. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17000.html