Our view: A positive start on sharing services

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The McHenry County and Lake County boards are taking a step in the right direction by opening the dialogue on how the two government agencies can consolidate and share services to lower costs for overburdened taxpayers.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor recently spoke to the McHenry County Board at the request of McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo.

Local governments’ ability to consolidate, either willingly or by fiat, is limited by state law.

As Northwest Herald Senior Reporter Kevin Craver wrote this week, a pilot program in DuPage County – which state lawmakers expanded to the McHenry and Lake county boards at Franks’ and Lawlor’s requests – allows the boards to eliminate a handful of vestigial and eclectic units of local government. Lawlor called those “low-dollar affairs.” Right now, he said, more money can be saved by local governments pooling their resources to share services.

“Whenever we move toward a discussion on consolidation, invariably you get sucked into a debate on who has what tax rate and what debt, and who’s going to pay for that, and it kind of drags the conversation down. So focusing on our ability to really drive consolidation in effect through shared services is incredibly promising,” Lawlor said.

Lawlor makes an important point.

There has been lots of talk about consolidation and sharing services over the years, but, many times, these discussions end without agreements that save money. It’s easy to get off track. Even when there are results, they aren’t always announced to the public or touted for what savings they produce.

However, there’s reason for optimism with these talks. Both Lawlor, a Republican, and Franks, a Democrat, have been vocal proponents of consolidation. Franks, as a state legislator, repeatedly has supported reducing the number of the state’s more than 7,000 units of local government.

We hope this effort can move forward to produce results. Taxpayers are overburdened. Governments need to work together to identify ways to cut costs.

Talk may be cheap, but in this case, we’re glad to see the conversation happening.