FILE - DuPage County

DuPage County administration building located in Wheaton.

The county that served as the test case for local government consolidation in Illinois has continued to shed layers of government to save money for taxpayers.

DuPage County, located in the western Chicago suburbs, announced that it had dissolved a seventh unit of government when a judge signed an order dissolving the Highland Hills Sanitary District last month. 

The district served 529 properties in and near Lombard, but was facing a large tax hike to pay for renovations. The dissolution means the county will pay for the repairs and provide water services while a nearby reclamation district will handle the rest. 

“This allowed the residents there to avoid taking out a loan to cover the cost of repairs,” DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said. 

DuPage County had previously done away with the Timberlake Estates Sanitary District, Fairview Fire Protection District, DuPage Fair and Exposition Authority, Century Hill Street Lighting District, DuPage Election Commission and North Westmont Fire Protection District, according to a news release.

Via the county's ACT Initiative, Cronin said elected officials have saved property taxpayers more than $100 million, which “is $100 million that would have been spent on these things had we not taken the action that we did.”

The county also saved money by consolidating services and bulk buying with other entities. 

Statewide, Illinois has more than 7,000 units of local government, far more than any other state in the nation.

After a recommendation of the Illinois Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force that was formed in 2015 by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, legislation was passed into law giving all counties the ability to consolidate units of government under their direct control after a series of steps to ensure viability and that it’s wanted by constituents. 

A couple of counties in northern Illinois have pursued consolidation, but not to the extent that DuPage has. 

Critics of government consolidation have said it’s done for political reasons, not necessarily to save money for taxpayers.

Staff Writer

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.