September 3, 2014
Some recent progress has been made when it comes to reducing the number of local governments in Illinois.
The State of Illinois has 6,963 local governments. To provide context to this issue, the table below displays the type and number of local governments in Illinois compared to other select midwestern states. Of the 6,963 local governments in Illinois, county governments make up 102, or 1.5% of the local governments; municipal governments make up 1,298, or 18.6% of the local governments; township governments make up 1,431, or 20.6% of the local governments; school districts make up 905, or 13.0% of the local governments; and special district governments, such as sanitary districts, library districts and fire protection districts make up 3,227, or 46.3% of the local governments.
The Civic Federation has long supported local government consolidation in Illinois and has written on the subject numerous times.
Most recently the Civic Federation provided a brief summary of Public Act 097-0316, which created the Local Government Consolidation Commission. In the blog the Federation also summarized House Bill 5785, which was intended to grant authority to certain local governments throughout the state to annex, consolidate or dissolve themselves. House Bill 5785 was sponsored by State Representative Jack Franks, who was a member of the Commission.
Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5785 into law on August 18, 2014 as Public Act 098-1002.
Governor Quinn also signed House Bill 5856 into law on August 18, 2014 as Public Act 098-1003. Public Act 098-1003 allows fire protection districts throughout the state to annex or consolidate with neighboring fire protection districts.
Fire protection districts are a type of special district government in Illinois. In Cook County there are more fire departments and fire protection districts than municipal governments. According to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, there are approximately 140 municipal fire departments and fire protection districts in Cook County. According to the Cook County Clerk, there are currently 132 municipal governments in Cook County.
Municipal fire departments and fire protection districts compete for grant funding while at the same time sharing manpower and equipment through mutual-aid assistance agreements with neighboring municipal fire departments and fire protection districts through the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS).
The large number of fire departments and fire protection districts in Cook County leads to questions of duplication and whether such a large number of districts are able to efficiently deliver services at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
For example, the Northbrook Rural Fire Protection District was created as a taxing mechanism to generate revenue for fire protection services outside the corporate boundaries of the Village of Northbrook. The trustees of the District administer funds through a contract for services from the Village of Northbrook.
Public Act 098-0126 allowed DuPage County to pass Ordinance OFI-002-14 on March 25, 2014, which dissolved the Fairview Fire Protection District. The Fairview Fire Protection District did not provide any actual fire protection services. Rather, the Village of Downers Grove provided fire protection and emergency medical services, through its municipal fire department, to the Fairview Fire Protection District under an arrangement whereby the District reimbursed Downers Grove annually for those services. Under Public Act 098-0126, Du Page County was able to dissolve the Fairview Fire Protection District after an audit was conducted and a review of the District’s assets, receipts, claims and debt as well as an inventory of its property was conducted.
The Civic Federation will continue to support sensible legislation aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations in Illinois. One of the goals of the Civic Federation’s Legislative Agenda for 2014 is to allow voters across the state the option to dissolve their township government through a referendum.
 There are a total of 146 fire departments listed on the website of the Illinois State Fire Marshal. However, a number of the fire departments are private fire departments for specific industrial areas.