* Illinois Policy Institute…
A small county in southwest Illinois is facing big pension obligations and the possibility that it won’t make payroll in late May.
Perry County faces a $1 million shortfall that is threatening its employees’ second payday in May. County leaders May 13 will consider recommendations to hike property taxes and fees, to curb spending, to lay off employees and to shorten their workweek.
“We basically need $1 million in the month of May just to meet payroll and to pay what bills we have left,” Perry County Treasurer Mary Jane Craft told WPSD-TV. “If we just meet payroll and not our bills, we still need $400,000.”
How did the county fall into crisis? Shrinking revenue and growing pension demands appear to be at the heart of the crisis.
Maybe we could address some of these problems by consolidating some of Illinois’ 102 counties. We talk about eliminating townships all the time, but counties spend real money and they’re all required by law to elect their own state’s attorneys, clerks, etc.
Tiny little Perry County has only 22,350 residents. That’s not even half a Chicago ward. Putnam County, the state’s smallest, has just 6,006 people.
The General Assembly could step in and redraw boundaries, but there is another way.
* From the Illinois Counties Code…
Sec. 1-4001. Petition to unite counties. Whenever any number of legal voters, not less than two hundred, one-half of such number being owners or life tenants of real estate, residing in any county in this State, shall petition the county board of their own county, for leave to have their own county united and annexed to any adjoining county, and shall also petition the county board of the adjoining county, to which they desire their county to be united and annexed, for leave to have their own county united and annexed to such adjoining county, it shall be the duty of the several county boards so petitioned, to order that the propositions provided for in this Division shall be submitted to the legal voters of their respective counties. The several county boards shall certify the propositions to the proper election officials who shall submit the question at a general election in accordance with the general election law. … Provided, that such proposition shall not be submitted or voted upon more often than once in 5 years.
Life tenants are defined here. The procedure for handling the mergers if approved by voters is here.
If nothing else, it would be fun to watch the hostile takeover attempts.
…Adding… The land-owning requirement probably isn’t constitutional for obvious reasons, but somebody ought to see if this could work.