Monday, September 28 Chairman Dan Cronin, DuPage County Board addressed Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce members at the annual State of the County luncheon. The following is a summary of Chairman Cronin’s address.
Results from the SurveyWhat’s the greatest impediment you find when doing business locally? Chamber members answered with: property taxes, duplication, length of time for processing, waste and inefficiency, bureaucracy. These are the enemy of a lean, cost-effective government model. So we agree! Could greater local government efficiency improve your business operations? Most, nearly ¾ of respondents answered YES. What’s the number one concern of your business regarding the number and layers of local government and how they operate? Chamber members answered with: too many layers and units, procurement process too complicated, duplicative services that are confusing, unsustainability of layers, and too many taxing bodies. I also want to share some of the comments made on the survey: “Collapsing and consolidating local governments would be a great step forward. LaSalle County has 26 school superintendents, which is too much overhead.” “The entrenched bureaucracy is cumbersome and often adversarial to the business community.” “If there were a way for some sort of statewide initiative to be put in place to teach municipalities how to operate efficiently…” Well, that is where DuPage County comes in. In 2013, DuPage County passed a bill that allowed us to pursue local government consolidation among a few appointed smaller government bodies in our county. The idea was that DuPage would serve as a laboratory of sorts. We’d see if, and how, consolidation would work toward reducing the size, scope and cost of local government. We created a scorecard, but we didn’t just keep track of consolidation. Believe it or not, in Illinois, it’s much, much easier to create a local government than to dissolve one. I know, I’ve dissolved three and have the scars to prove it! Our scorecard tracks all of the savings we’ve accumulated when we stopped short of consolidation, but strived for simplification, collaboration, reducing unnecessary layers and utilizing technology to make service more convenient and more timely. The results? Here in DuPage County our ACT Scorecard totals up to more than $100 million in projected savings that local taxpayers will realize. We heard business owners and taxpayers who told us – “Yes, we care about consolidation, but most importantly, we just want our government to work better and cost less.” So we’ve created this blueprint, a model for the rest of the state. How we have streamlined government in DuPage County Let me give you a few examples of how we have streamlined in DuPage. These examples are easily replicated locally or statewide. Prudent Financial Stewardship My favorite example of government savings is a story we told to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor when they joined us in Elmhurst to announce the formation of a statewide task force to study local government consolidation. The news conference announcing the task force was held at the DuPage Water Commission. Where, thanks to careful management and prudent financial stewardship, the quarter-cent sales tax consumers pay to fund that agency is being eliminated in 2016. That’s right; we’re putting tax dollars back in consumers’ pockets. The Water Commission paid back loans early, saving DuPage water customers $10 million in interest and finance charges. Consumers will save another $33 million annually in sales tax as the utility stands on its own and becomes self-sustaining. They streamlined their services and looked for opportunities that would produce savings yielding service that costs consumers less. Government Consolidation In the area of government consolidation, there’s one duplicative layer of government we were able to eliminate this past spring. Our DuPage legislative caucus led the way to eliminate the DuPage Fair Authority, an appointed body which only existed to pass state funds through to the DuPage Fair Association, which actually works to put the fair on. That’s one gone. We’ve also eliminated the Fairview Fire District and the Timberlake Estates Sanitary districts, both of which actually provided no service to citizens, but merely existed on paper. Collaboration I think one of the best local examples of collaboration is Choose DuPage, which I believe represents a really innovative model for county economic development. Choose DuPage is the public-private partnership charged with retaining and expanding our diverse business base while attracting new business investment to our county. More than 50% of Choose DuPage’s budget comes from contributions from businesses like yours. Choose DuPage reported that last year there were 118 new business projects that located in DuPage County, (projects include investments of more than a $1 million, at least 20,000 sq/ft, or more than 50 jobs created). That’s a 15% increase from the previous year. To put that number in perspective, DuPage saw more new business projects locate here than located in Kane, Will and Lake Counties combined. And, we had four times the amount that located in northwest Indiana’s four counties. Some additional proof that our business-friendly philosophy is bearing fruit includes:
- Strength in the employment sector – two years ago, I stood here and told you our unemployment rate was 8.1%. Last year, I reported a rate of 5.5%. Today, our unemployment rate in DuPage is just 5.1%, more than a full point lower than Cook County.
- Increased tourism – the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau reported that 2014 was a record year for tourism in the county. Tourism was responsible for more than $40 million in local tax receipts. This represents a more than 4.5% increase over 2013.
- Increased sales tax revenue – DuPage County sales tax revenue is up, and projected to grow at a steady 4.8% rate through fiscal 2016.
- A Triple A Bond Rating – DuPage retains its Triple A Bond rating from all three rating agencies. Fewer than 1% of counties in the U.S. enjoy this status.