DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin last week unveiled Phase 1 of a report citing recommendations to improve county agencies that account for nearly $300 million in public funds.
“The report represents the very first time our residents will have a full accounting of these entities that collect and spend a significant amount of tax dollars," Cronin said. "This is a landmark report in many ways. Not only do we have access to budget and operational information for the first time, but we will also have a set of recommendations on how to improve the system."
The analysis of 24 county taxing bodies was initiated by Cronin last year following the financial crises at the Water Commission and DuPage Housing Authority. Cronin authored state legislation signed by Governor Quinn last July to gain more oversight and accountability from independent agencies to which he appoints board members.
The DuPage County Board hired Crowe Horwath last year to conduct a thorough assessment of agencies ranging from the County Health Department to sanitary districts to mosquito abatement districts. The 24 agencies employ more than 850 employees.
Among the results:
- The DuPage County Health Department is a leading model agency that should share its best practices with other agencies. Since the Health Department currently receives state funding, the report suggests that officials continue to monitor the federal and state financial situation.
- The Fair and Exposition Authority manages the DuPage County Fairgrounds and coordinates the annual County Fair on 42 acres of land located on the east side of the DuPage County Complex. (The estimated value of the land is between $3.7 and $9.7 million.) The report recommends the long-term viability of the fair be considered since the state has significantly decreased funding in recent years by more than $100,000. The report also noted the agency should find a new location for the fairgrounds and consider sharing a location with a neighboring county to better manage costs. Other recommendations include transferring the agency’s function to the county, increasing transparency and accountability, and strengthening the procurement, ethics and credit card policies.
- The Century Hill Lighting District provides street lighting to the Century Hill Subdivision that includes 312 parcels of property located in unincorporated Naperville. The report states that there is a potential long-term financial risk due to the 40-year-old lighting infrastructure and for the fact that there is little to no cash reserves to cover large capital replacement. The report also suggests the lighting district explore options to consolidate functions with Lisle Township or consider annexation of the district by the City of Naperville.
- The West Chicago and the Wheaton Mosquito Abatement Districts provide extermination of mosquitoes, flies and other insects within their respective districts. These agencies are just two of 45 districts, municipalities and townships that perform some form of mosquito abatement in DuPage County. The report cites that Clarke Environmental currently has 36 contracts for mosquito abatement in DuPage County and recommends a master contract for abatement services across all districts, municipalities and townships. Another option is to dissolve the West Chicago and Wheaton districts and transfer the function to the County Health Department, which also performs mosquito abatement.
The next two rounds of analysis will be released in mid-March and early April.
Following the release of all 24 reports, Cronin will submit his proposal to implement needed reforms that could include the consolidation of agencies in his mission to make government smarter and leaner.
“DuPage can serve as the laboratory for ideas and methods on how to trim the size of local government. I firmly believe that we can develop the template for other counties, and perhaps the state, to follow in the pursuit of more accountable, more efficient and more responsible government on behalf of our taxpayers,” he said.