March 25, 2021
The Civic Federation’s recently released Inventory of Local Governments in Illinois report identified a total of 8,923 units of local government in Illinois. This includes 2,826 general purpose governments and 6,097 special purpose governments.
In addition to providing a comprehensive list of local governments in Illinois, the report provides an overview of the different types of local governments in Illinois and their reliance on property taxes and other sources of revenue to fund operations. The report also provides population characteristics of local governments as well as a comparison of the number of local governments in Illinois to other selected states.
The Civic Federation used three primary sources of information to produce the most comprehensive list of local governments in Illinois. These include the Government Master Address File (GMAF) from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Census of Governments, the Illinois State Comptroller’s registry of local governments, and information provided to the Civic Federation by the Illinois Department of Revenue.
The Civic Federation’s total count of 8,923 local governments in Illinois is greater than the number of local governments reported by the Illinois State Comptroller (8,529), the U.S. Census Bureau (6,918) and the Illinois Department of Revenue (6,042), due to the methodology and the compilation of all three listings to create a composite count. The Federation’s list included in the report is purposefully as inclusive as possible so as to provide a comprehensive view of the totality of local governments in Illinois. The choice to be as inclusive as possible does not mean the other lists are wrong, they simply use different methodologies. Of the general-purpose local governments, which includes counties, townships and municipalities, counties are the only type of local government that is consistently reported across all three reporting agencies.
This blog will examine the county form of government in Illinois.
There are a total of 102 counties in Illinois. Counties exist throughout the entire state of Illinois and oversee public health, court and public safety services; administer vital records; and assess and collect property taxes. Counties may perform a number of other functions including planning, zoning, as well as other municipal type services in unincorporated areas of counties. In addition to the governing board of the county, there are separately elected county officials that include the Sheriff, States Attorney, Assessor, and Clerk, among others. Counties are allowed to levy several local taxes, a property tax, as well as issue bonds. Cook County is the only home rule county in Illinois, which means it is granted broader authority to regulate its own affairs.
Property Taxes by Type of Local Government in Illinois
The following chart provides an overview of the amount of property taxes levied by type of local government throughout the entire State in 2018. The data in this chart was obtained from the Illinois Department of Revenue. When removing enterprise zone abatements  —$35.4 million statewide—from the total extensions, counties levied $2.0 billion, or 6.5%, of the total taxes. School districts’ property tax extensions of $18.5 billion accounted for 58.3% of the total taxes levied. Municipalities levied $6.0 billion or 18.9%. Townships and road districts accounted for 2.4%, or $750.4 million in taxes levied. All other types of governments included in the chart are special purpose governments and accounted for $4.4 billion, or 14.0% of the total taxes levied statewide. Of these special districts, community colleges levied the greatest amount at $1.2 billion, or 3.7%, of the $31.8 billion in total property taxes levied statewide.
Sources of Revenue for Counties in Illinois
The next chart provides an overview of the various sources of revenue that 96 of the 102 counties in Illinois rely on to fund operations. The data included in this chart was obtained from the Illinois Comptroller’s FY2018 Fiscal Responsibility Report Card. Cook County is excluded from the data presented in the chart since it would skew the data. Counties that were delinquent in submitting their data to the Illinois Comptroller for fiscal year 2018 were also not included in the chart.
Excluding Cook County and delinquent counties, counties in Illinois collected $3.8 billion in revenue in FY2018. Property taxes compose approximately 35.3% of counties revenue sources . State revenue sources totaled $1.1 billion and made up 28.7% of total revenues. Federal and intergovernmental revenues accounted for $251.8 million and $121.6 million, or 6.6% and 3.2% respectively. Fines, fees, charges, interest and miscellaneous (licenses and permits, fines, charges for services, etc.) made up the remaining 23.0%, with the selected counties collecting $870.6 million in those revenues.
Population Characteristics of Counties in Illinois
There are approximately 12.8 million residents who reside in the 102 counties across Illinois. The data presented in the chart below was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Census of Governments. Of the 102 counties, there are 15 counties that have a population of fewer than 10,000 residents and 36 counties that have a population of between 10,000 and 24,999 residents. Together this makes up 50% of the counties in Illinois. There are 21 counties that have between 25,000 and 49,999 residents. The remaining 20 counties have 100,000 or more residents, with only 5 counties exceeding a population 500,000 residents. Cook County, which is the largest county in Illinois, has a population of approximately 5.2 million residents, followed by DuPage County with approximately 916,924 residents. Hardin County and Pope County are the least populous counties with 4,320 and 4,470 residents, respectively. Cook County and the collar counties compose nearly two-thirds of the State’s population with 8.3 million residents . The chart below provides a further breakdown of the population of counties in Illinois, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Census of Governments.
Comparison of Counties in Illinois and Selected States
This chart compares the number of counties in Illinois and selected states. The data in this chart was obtained from U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Census of Local Governments. As previously noted, there are a total of 102 counties in Illinois. Of the selected states examined in the Federation’s report only Texas and Missouri have more counties than Illinois with 254 and 114, respectively. California and New York both have the fewest counties at 57. After Illinois, Iowa has the next highest number of counties with 99. The number of counties in other selected states range from 66 in Florida and Pennsylvania to 91 in Indiana.
 An enterprise zone is an economic development tool used by local governments to spur development and economic growth. One component of the enterprise zone program is the ability for the increase in assessed value related to improvements made to properties within the enterprise zone to be abated (reduced) by a certain amount. Therefore, the Civic Federation does not include the abated taxes in the data presented.
 Property taxes composed 25.2% of Cook County’s revenues in FY2018. See p. 77 of the Illinois State Comptroller’s FY2018 Fiscal Responsibility Report Card for a breakdown of Cook County revenues by source.
The collar counties include: DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will County.