February 25, 2021
Report provides most comprehensive accounting of local governments in Illinois
CHICAGO – According to a Civic Federation report released today, the State of Illinois comprises 8,923 local governments, including counties, townships, municipalities, school districts and other special districts.
The full report, An Inventory of Local Governments in Illinois, is available at civicfed.org/inventory.
In addition to underlining Illinois’ longtime designation as the state with the highest number of local governments in the nation, the Civic Federation’s inventory figure is also nearly 30% higher than a U.S. Census of Governments figure most often cited in the media.
“The U.S. Census accounting remains helpful for state-by-state comparisons, where Illinois remains an extreme outlier. However, the Federation’s deeper dive includes an additional number of cemetery districts, library districts, sanitary districts and other special purpose governments,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall. “While other compilations may leave out certain governments based on specific selection criteria, the Civic Federation made every effort to include each Illinois government—even those operated and governed by a single person.”
The Federation used three primary sources of information to produce its most comprehensive list of governments in Illinois: the master file from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Governments; the Illinois State Comptroller’s registry of local governments; and information provided to the Federation by the Illinois Department of Revenue. After compilation, these lists were cross-checked with other sources to ensure as accurate and inclusive an accounting as possible.
“It is important to note that ‘inclusive’ and ‘comprehensive’ are not necessarily the same as ‘exhaustive,’ especially as time passes following publication of this analysis,” said Msall. “The Civic Federation welcomes feedback at any time. Moreover, we hope that government leaders use this report to spur consolidation and modernization efforts across Illinois.”
Business, government and civic groups, including the Federation, have long called for local government consolidation as part of a robust plan to shore up Illinois’ finances. The multiplicity of local units of government, many of which are funded predominantly by property taxes, is often cited as a reason for high property tax rates in Illinois. Local government consolidation, cooperation and dissolution has therefore become a focus for many government leaders and civic groups.
“Especially at a time when local governments are facing severe revenue shortfalls as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, streamlining redundant services makes financial sense and would put Illinois governments in line with best practices,” said Msall.
For more information, including the Federation’s methodology, comparisons with other states and a full accounting of the 8,923 local governments in Illinois, please visit civicfed.org/inventory.