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Maybe it’s time to consider consolidating villages?

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017

* When we think of local government consolidation, we often think of schools or townships. But Illinois also has 1,299 incorporated cities, towns and villages

Former police chief Craig Kennedy said Monday he wasn’t surprised and has no hard feelings about being laid off by the village of Jerome.

As part of cost reductions necessitated by a budget shortfall, Village President Mike Lopez said the police chief was let go Friday. Kennedy was paid $55,000 per year.

“I attend 99 percent of the village board meetings and watched the downturn in sales tax revenue and figured I would be the first to go,” said Kennedy, 57, who spent the past 15 years with the Jerome Police Department, including three as chief. […]

Earlier this month, The State Journal-Register reported that police officers in nearby Leland Grove had been covering shifts in Jerome due to what village officials described as a temporary manpower shortage.

The 2015 Census estimate puts Jerome’s population at 1,651.

* From earlier this month

Lopez said that village coffers have been hurt by late payments from the state on monies owed. For example, the village in December received checks from the state to pay for officers who participated last spring in seatbelt emphasis patrols, he said. […]

Sales tax revenue in Jerome is also down, Lopez said. While the opening of Hy-Vee on MacArthur Boulevard might have been good news for the City of Springfield, it has reduced spending at Shop ’n Save, one of the largest businesses in the village. On the other hand, gambling revenue has soared to as much as $7,000 a month, he said, but that money will likely tail off due to the number of video gaming machines that have been installed throughout the area. […]

The village this month ceased paying a portion of health care premiums for dependents of village employees, which will save nearly $23,000, Lopez said, and Jerome residents can expect other cutbacks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Downstate - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    Agreed. Maybe consolidate counties as well.

  2. - Deft Wing - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:50 am:

    Consolidation of any unit of government is a legit consideration, including Villages/Towns/Cities. Sharing municipal services has already happened and will likely expand, whether towns fully combine or not. This is mostly driven by ever increasing pension expense. Watch for police and fire consolidations especially.

  3. - Dan Johnson - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:52 am:

    At least the back end: employees and health insurance can be consolidated into a large pool (maybe as part of IMRF) but the entity, elections and sense of identity can continue indefinitely.

    Kind of like LSCs for the Chicago Public Schools.

  4. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:53 am:

    When not motivated by expansion, when is the last time there was a disbanding or merger of towns in Illinois?

  5. - Leatherneck - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:53 am:

    Or instead, Springfield annexes Jerome, Leland Grove, Grandview and Southern View.

  6. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:55 am:

    Maybe we should look at consolidating municipalities, but we can’t even seem to get the ball rolling on ridding ourselves of townships and mosquito abatement districts. First things first.

  7. - Downstate Dem - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    precincts, villages, towns, cities, school board districts, counties, legislative districts, mosquito abatement districts, townships … the global economy doesn’t give a damn about all of our boundaries so we had better learn to act as a region to compete.

  8. - Shemp - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    Another option is fire districts. Smaller cities can barely afford their full time ones and the volunteer ones struggle to find volunteers. But unfortunately, paid city and volunteer departmenta both tend to have a lot of pride in their name. Not to mention, consolidating tends to create fewer opportunities for promotional advancement, so firefighters tend to fight that, and politically, you can’t win that battle.

  9. - GA Watcher - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:00 am:

    We have the ability now to consolidate local governments via referendum. Voters in Evanston, for example, voted in recent years to consolidate the City of Evanston and Evanston Township. About 15 years ago, voters in Hanover Park approved a referendum to consolidate the Hanover Park Fire Protection District into the Village of Hanover Park Fire Department.

  10. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    Could it be reduced spending or are these places incorporated into a TIF? See how that’s done? Get people distracted by who is stealing customers from whom when all the while it is the TIF set up that is siphoning off public funds.


  11. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    I am a proponent of consolidation as long as the people are cared for. Townships usually give out payments to the poor called General Assistance. This needs to continue but actually get to the poor. In the Metro East it is the big slush fund dipped into by corrupt politicians. Preserve General Assistance but make sure it gets doled out to those who really need it. Here in East St. Louis, people really really need help.

  12. - GA Watcher - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    And before I forget, short of full consolidations, many towns in the State, but particularly in the Chicago region, have been sharing services and merging functions since the 1950s. They’ve been joint contracting certain services and merged police, fire, public works, and code enforcement functions to create efficiencies and cut costs for many, many years.

  13. - NorthsideNomore - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    The village leaders can go that direction and could put the question on ballot as a referendum. Question is does Springfield want Jerome et al they have to chime in as well. Example Some townships eliminate the road commissioners post and have municipalities take over the streets and the gas taxes tied to them. Same could be applied but there has to be a willingness on both sides.

  14. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    As to villages, how many do you know where one allows open burning while another mandates yard waste collection? Or one enforces a property maintenance code and the neighboring city/village doesn’t. One has private utilities while another is all public. One adopts video gaming and another doesn’t. One has a local option sales tax, another doesn’t. One has a history of maintaining infrastructure, another doesn’t.

    Maybe one day we get there, but as noted, the lower hanging fruit of special districts and townships needs to be addressed first. Even as tough as it would be, fire department and fire district consolidation on a county or regional level would be easier (and a real service enhancement for everyone).

  15. - downstate commissioner - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    Honeybear, in the rural parts of the state, General Assistance is a very small part of the township. Road maintenance is the major duty of the township road districts.

  16. - DuPage - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    Whenever the idea of marriage of towns, villages, and their police and fire departments is proposed, they usually can’t agree on which one will be the bride.

  17. - Liberty - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:21 am:

    Its not like home rule is in the the constitution…

  18. - jerry 101 - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:21 am:

    I saw a story recently that there is a ‘mysterious’ effort to merge several smaller villages into Naperville. Seems like a good idea. Chicago has scads of little tiny suburbs that could benefit from consolidation.
    Denver’s only has a handful of suburbs, and most of them have over 100,000 residents (heck, Aurora has something like 350,000).
    I think it works a lot better for taxpayers than having dozens and dozens and dozens of little towns.

  19. - Liberty - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:23 am:

    Also jerome had six police officers and poor road maintenance.

  20. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    No comments yet about Parks and Recreation season 6 where Eagleton and Pawnee merged. While a tv comedy, a lot of the issues portrayed were legit! Wait until one suggests merging an affluent town and a less affluent town. Classic tv.

  21. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    A quick look-see on the google was no help, so a question: is there any specific legal distinction of a “village” in Illinois, as opposed to “town” or “city?”

    Arlington Heights is a “village.” So is Oak Park, Lombard, some other fairly high population municipalities.

  22. - Out Here In The Middle - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    In other states you see consolidation of municipal & county government into a single entity. That would make a lot of sense in many areas - a single entity for public health, fire, police.

  23. - Anonymous Lee - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:33 am:

    Consolidating downstate counties would be a great start. As much as the Chicago Tribune and Kristen McQueary dwell on the idea of reducing the number of wards on the Chicago city council, a Chicago ward has more residents than 3/4 of the state’s counties.

    It is not efficient to maintain separate judicial systems and sheriff departments for counties with only 10,000 people.

  24. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:44 am:

    Interesting because I have often wondered, as I drive through the rural Midwest, which is often, how many little towns can maintain any kind of local government and how they pay for it. Many of them have downtowns that are shuttered except for a few sad-looking stores, and the only new buildings are government buildings, probably from federal funds (libraries, police stations, village halls, schools). Many private homes are in obviously poor condition. I’m sure the residents can’t pay high property taxes. Indeed, I wonder how local schools sustain themselves and provide a remotely competitive education. I drive through the same towns year after year and it doesn’t seem like these trends are reversing.

  25. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:47 am:

    @Honeybear, spot on about General Assistance and Townships. The Daily Herald (upstate paper) had an article about two townships, Maine and one other around suburban Chicago, and the obscene amount of money spent on admin costs vs. money to the actual needy because these townships did nothing to change the admin operations. Oversight by trustees was ridiculous.

    Townships in Cook County sometimes have an assessor’s office, which is highly duplicative of the County Assessor. why can’t GA be administered by counties? isn’t there a better way to handle the admin of roads issues?

  26. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:52 am:

    The best example of why Illinois should head down this road is St Clair County, specifically E. St Louis, Alorton, Brooklyn, and Washington Park. Washington Park, after all, is where the Grim Reaper aka Rick Romanik got his start.

  27. - GA Watcher - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:03 am:

    Word: The only legal distinction between cities, village and towns has to do with the charters under which they were created. The municipalities you mentioned were all chartered as villages. One like Countryside in west Cook was chartered as a city, but has a small population. The real important legal distinction between municipalities in Illinois is whether they are home rule or non-home rule.

  28. - In 630 - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:04 am:

    General rule of thumb is that villages elect their boards at large and cities have districts.

    I’m not familiar with any merged PDs. I think a couple DuPage communities looked at it 10 years or so ago and were at least questions of legality. Fire and Library districts tend to be leftovers from pre-development days. City Managers and your regional municipal conferences do some joint purchases- and pooling road projects for bid.

  29. - downstate mayor - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:09 am:

    Wordslinger, I am a small town mayor in downstate Illinois and the simple way to answer your questions is that there are three distinctions for municipalities (that I know of). There is city, town and Village. It all depends on how and when they were incorporated. Towns are older and most likely didn’t re-incorporate in the late 1880’s when the General Assembly changed the incorporation laws. For example, our town officially received a charter in 1868 and then a second one in 1887 to become a Village. Villages have “Presidents” and 6 member boards. Most Presidents do not have veto power (weak mayor). Cities tend to be larger, have a mayor, and run more of their own services and the Mayor should have veto power (strong mayor). I believe their board can go bigger than 6 too. Our Village has one full time Chief of police, several part time officers, 2 full time PW guys, and part time treasurer and clerk (both appointed). I am not close to being a full time President. We do not have fire or any other departments. We do not have a manager either.

  30. - Downstate Illinois - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    I remember attending a public hearing after the recession when two small town mayors complained about not qualifying for some aid because their communities were under the 5,000 minimum population cutoff. I couldn’t help but think if they combined their contiguous communities they would be over that threshold.

    While small town corruption isn’t the resonthise two communities are still separate it is a function of other small communities, if not now, then back in their history somewhere.

  31. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:15 am:

    Thank you GAW, DM. How you were incorporated must have meant something under the laws back in the day, I imagine.

  32. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    Consolidation is in vogue now but I won’t hold my breath.

    Virtually all of these units of local government have elected officials who would be out of a job if consolidated. These officials wouldn’t be able to hire or contract with their friends and family.

    Big incentive to maintain the status quo.

    The only opportunities I see are for strapped local governments, like Jerome, to consolidate with fiscally stronger jurisdictions. But then, will the better off jurisdiction want a struggling add on?

    I suppose it was a good idea at the time to form the thousands of units of local government. Not so great now.

  33. - Downstate Mayor "President" - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:21 am:

    Wordslinger, We are looking at our 150th anniversary and we found an old leather bound book that told us in April of 1887 there was a vote and it was 75 for and 15 against.

  34. - Shemp - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    Truly spoken like someone who has no idea what they are talking about when it comes to tax increment finance.

    - Honeybear - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    Could it be reduced spending or are these places incorporated into a TIF? See how that’s done? Get people distracted by who is stealing customers from whom when all the while it is the TIF set up that is siphoning off public funds.


  35. - Mama - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    Does anyone know how many villages in IL are unincorporated?

  36. - Mama - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:41 am:

    Would Jerome’s citizens be better off if their village annexed into Springfield?

    Are their taxes higher or lower than the taxes in Springfield?

  37. - Mama - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    Rich, didn’t Pat Quinn try to make villages consolidate when he was the governor, and found out he could not legally force them to consolidate?

  38. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    Take away or reduce LGDF and there wont be so many tax give away programs. Treat everyboby the same.

  39. - walker - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    Can we bring this discussion down to the practical level? There are already legal ways for local government entities to merge, share, or dissolve.

    Do we want the State Government to make it easier or incentivize it in any way?

  40. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 12:01 pm:

    == Or instead, Springfield annexes Jerome, Leland Grove, Grandview and Southern View. ==

    You forgot to add Laketown, which was annexed, nobody realized it, and years later voted to de-annex.

    Seriously, while is would be disruptive short term, it could lead to more cost savings. But you would have to overcome the fiefdoms, especially Leland Grove.

    From a practical matter, the donut in a hole law would let this happen IF the individual townships voted to unincorporate.

  41. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 12:39 pm:

    One of the simplest ways for small villages and towns to cut costs is to contract for police patrol from the county Sheriffs.

    The village of Shabbona on Route 30 has a nice state park with some good fishing. “Big Jim” used to be the police chief, he had a bait & tackle shop in town. Now they get police coverage from DeKalb county and save a lot of money.

    An example on the other end is Morrison, IL, west of Shabbona on Rt. 30. Their new police chief has been busy empire building for the past five years or so. He has created the new position of sergeant for $10,000 more per year, hired part-time officers from other towns create a patronage army, and every officer in town has their own car to drive home with gas paid by the taxpayers! Ridiculous spending for a town whose main street is crumbling and water system is falling apart.

  42. - CornCob - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    ** Rich, didn’t Pat Quinn try to make villages consolidate when he was the governor, and found out he could not legally force them to consolidate? **

    I believe that was school district consolidation.

  43. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    I’m sort of amazed and all of the tiny little governments inside of Springfield, and the fact that Springfield also has a township that covers pretty much the exact same area.

    With patronage slowly fading away, we don’t really need a lot of extra jobs and titles.

  44. - Johnny Justice - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 3:03 pm:

    Springfield area municipal governments waste a lot of taxpayer dollars through duplication and the failure to reap the benefits oft economies of scale. Jerome, Leland Grove, Grandview and the urban parts of Woodside & Springfield Townships should all be consolidated into Springfield. What sense does it make to have one side of a street be in Springfield and the other in unincorporated Woodside Townships. Of course, such will be vehemently opposed by the small time politicians running their political fiefdoms!

  45. - Shemp - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 3:19 pm:

    In fairness to the tiny burgs, if they aren’t paying for full time fire departments or police departments (or have small enough departments the police are IMRF), it’s going to be a LOT less expensive for them. There are economies of scale if you’re getting the same service, but if you have differing levels of service ranging from fire to property maintenance to parks and rec, then there can be substantial costs. If you have no arterial roads except a state highway, and you have ditches rather than curb and gutter, you can save a lot too. So it’s not quite so simple to simply state economies of scale. But on things like water and wastewater treatment, trash collection, etc, there is definitely an economy of scale.

  46. - East County - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 3:55 pm:

    Doing what is best for your residents….The Village of Spaulding has a PART TIME police department. I believe a 3/4 time chief and then 2 or 3 part time officers, 3 or 4 vehicles, office, computers, phones, tasers, guns and bullets…in other words some pretty good expense. If the Village Board were smart they would talk to Riverton who has a 24/7 Department and see what it would cost Spaulding to have Riverton cover them 24/7. It might be less then what they are currently spending, but you have to talk to them to find out. Just think Spaulding residents could have 24/7 coverage and you might have some extra money left over to fix the roads that are in terrible condition in places. I think that is doing what is best for your residents??? If you did away with your department altogether then you would be covered by the Sheriff’s Department like a lot of the other small villages in the county. They currently cover you when you have no one on duty.

  47. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 4:16 pm:

    Jerome is an outlier in this discussion since there is absolutely zero reason for it to exist, it along with Leland Grove, Southern View & Grandview should be dissolved and incorporated into Springfield.

    Most communities in this conversation are going to have to think outside the box and possibly consider dissolving and just becoming part of the County. This is actually where giving Townships more authority might be helpful.

  48. - IllinoisBoi - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 4:33 pm:

    ==Mama - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:38 am:
    Does anyone know how many villages in IL are unincorporated?==

    If by villages you mean named populated places, there are hundreds.

  49. - MyTwoCents - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 5:46 pm:

    I think using patronage is an overly simple excuse. Put consolidation on the ballot for Leland Grove, Jerome, Grandview and Southern View and see what happens and it will have nothing to do with politicians protecting their fiefdom. Other than how much patronage jobs are their in small towns anyway? Voters like their local control and typically will vote to protect that regardless of other factors.

    Also if anybody is interested in the history of these towns this website has articles on all of them:

  50. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 7:55 pm:

    == I’m sort of amazed and all of the tiny little governments inside of Springfield, and the fact that Springfield also has a township that covers pretty much the exact same area. ==

    I was baffled by this same thing when I move to the Spfld area! Why are some streets services by City of Springfield, some by Jerome, and others by Leland Grove?! Why does Capitol Township, which is inside the City of Springfield boundaries, exist? So much unnecessary waste and duplication of services.

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