DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin released a proposal today to implement needed measures to reform independent County agencies and achieve greater accountability and efficiencies in local government.
The DuPage ACT Initiative – Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency, released by Cronin, serves as a roadmap for agencies to follow in an effort to better comply with DuPage County policies.
“The recent assessments served as a discovery process to determine the health and future viability of the organizations. What we found is that while the concept of independence has value, it can also foster a climate of inefficiency and unaccountability. Now that we have a better understanding of these agencies, it is imperative that we work together to make them more accountable, more transparent and more efficient,” he said.
The ACT Initiative is in response to the recently released “stress test” reports that evaluated the financial and operational functions of 24 non-elected taxing bodies in DuPage County. While some agencies provide basic services such as fire, water, sanitation, health and emergency services, others offer more unique service such as mosquito abatement and street lighting. Combined, these agencies account for nearly $300 million in public funds and employ between 850-900 people.
The reform initiative suggests agencies increase accountability by:
- Adopting procurement and ethics policies that emulate DuPage County’s ordinances;
- Prohibiting the use of credit cards; and
- Providing the County with salary and benefit policies from each agency to disclose general compensation practices to the public and ensuring compensation meets current market standards.
Cronin also recommends consolidation and shared services such as:
- Exploring consolidation of essential services such as information technology, human resources, procurement and finance between County sister agencies (Election Commission, DuPage Board of Health, DuPage Housing Authority, Emergency Telephone System Board and Sheriff’s Merit Commission) and DuPage County departments;
- Partnering with the DuPage Mayors and Mangers Conference Fire Services Stakeholders group to determine areas to share services or consolidate with other entities;
- Establishing a master contract with provider or consolidating into other local entities for mosquito abatement services; and
- Forming a coalition of all Sanitary Districts to explore consolidation of facilities, shared services or the transfer of duties to other jurisdictions.
The ACT Initiative also calls for increased transparency such as:
- Ensuring public documents and meeting schedules are available online, either via a separate website or posting information on the DuPage County website;
- Changing meeting time, location and accessibility at the DuPage Election Commission;
- Developing long-term financial and capital plans for the Fire Protection Districts; and
- Furnishing annual budget and operational update reports to the County Board.
Since the initial inquiry, Cronin said he has been pleased with the overall collaboration between the County and the agencies. In addition, several reforms have been made by a number of these agencies prior to the release of the ACT Initiative. Examples of taxpayer savings and reforms to date include:
- Board of Elections eliminated one information technology position saving $70,000 annually and banned the use of credit cards;
- DuPage Airport Authority is redesigning its website to ease navigation and provide additional information regarding airport operations;
- Naperville Fire Protection District is working with its auditor to address and improve the Fiscal Year 2012 financial statement disclosures; and
- Wheaton Sanitary District amended its ethics ordinance to align with the County’s and strengthened its credit card policy.
“The first step toward realizing larger reforms is for these agencies to implement recommendations and create a basic policy foundation. So far, I am pleased that these agencies are willing to work with us in our mission to make government more accountable. I truly believe that we can share services and consolidate functions to establish a more efficient model of government that other counties and even the state can emulate,” he said.
Beyond the suggested reforms, the County is updating and streamlining other independent agencies in accordance with local and state laws. For example, the DuPage State’s Attorney’s Office is in the process of removing the Timberlake Estates Sanitary District from the property tax rolls as the County now provides sanitary service to the area.