Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed into law two bills making it easier to consolidate local governments and reduce property taxes. That's good news. But before you buy stock in expandable wallets, two asterisks:
One bill the governor signed, sponsored by Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, applied to drainage districts, the elimination of which is relevant mostly in the suburbs and not a significant cost reducer. The other bill, sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, addressed township functions in McHenry and Lake counties only, and in limited capacity.
Baby steps, people. Under both bills, voters would need to build momentum to dissolve unnecessary taxing bodies, in some cases by gathering signatures to get referendum questions on the ballot. Hear that, voters? Ultimately, it's up to you.
It can be a heavy lift. Downsizing the nearly 7,000 governmental bodies in Illinois — a big-government state where public employee unions like it that way — is tough politically, even for elderly drainage districts or township road departments overseeing a few miles of pavement. Status quo usually wins.
But it's a start. Here's a more ambitious but logical next step: Consolidate school districts. The state's 852 districts could see savings that could be sent to classrooms, redeploying money from administrative bloat to educating students. Not to mention the advantages of broader curriculums and more activities for kids in today's small districts.
Even among Democrats, the push is gaining traction in Springfield. Fewer superintendents, fewer assistant superintendents, fewer deans, fewer transportation coordinators .
Over time, Illinois has been moving in the right direction. In 1983, there were 1,008 school districts statewide.
A new report from the Illinois Policy Institute finds more than 9,000 school administrators earning salaries greater than $100,000. On average they'll pull roughly $3 million apiece in pensions and benefits over the course of their retirements, the report concluded. So yes, consolidating districts would ease pressure on pension systems too.
So what do you say, Illinois taxpayers? Look around. You can wait for politicians to reduce your property taxes. Or you can start pushing for consolidation of your own districts.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Our legislators passed a law they contend would outlaw big payoffs to high-ranking public employees who lose their jobs.
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Then Western Illinois University decided to oust its president — Jack Thomas — from his executive chair and grease the skids out the door with a mega-bucks buyout. Now our legislators are trying to figure out what happened with their supposed prohibition on "golden parachutes."
The state's ban on buyouts is supposed to limit severance pay to 20 weeks. In the case of Thomas, Western officials and their lawyers came up with an alternative — two years of sabbatical leave worth $570,000 and then a return to a faculty position paying $200,000 a year. It was a price they were willing to pay to avoid a big fight over Thomas stepping down.
They called it a transition, not a separation agreement, and, technically speaking, they're right.
If legislators are really serious about the issue, they'll need to revise current law. But it won't be easy.
The best solution is not to make hiring mistakes on the front end that require buyouts at the back end.
(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald
If nothing else, Churchill Downs Inc. surely has captured the attention of local officials and lawmakers with its announcement that it will not seek the casino license it previously seemed to covet so fervently for Arlington International Racecourse.
Where the debate goes from here — and the odds of the track's closing — are harder to assess.
So, as the November veto session for considering legislative revisions approaches, it seems reasonable for legislators and policymakers to take a serious look inside the gambling expansion bill to see what revisions are necessary.
In doing so, there are many questions to be answered.
Arlington Park, even in a troubled economic environment, is one of the jewels of the suburbs and a source of pride for the entire state. It is an asset worth protecting. It deserves the respect of careful and thoughtful analysis to ensure it can compete effectively and fairly. At this eleventh hour, we hope that is all that Churchill Downs really wants.