By Nancy Mathieson*
Aaron Lawler, Lake County Board Chairman since 2012, is setting an agenda to remove unnecessary mandates that cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year. In a memo written to the Governor’s newly formed Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandate Task Force, Lawler spells out his ideas to generate immediate cost savings of up to $2.1 million, and millions more in ongoing savings for Lake County. Highlights of Lawler’s recommendations include:
Workers’ Compensation: Restoring the original intent of the law that workers’ comp covers only work-related exposures and conditions. (Lake County currently experienced losses in excess of $500,000 related to claims made in parking lots prior to/post work that are considered workers’ comp). Reduce or stop doctor shopping and strengthen AMA standards used to determine the level of impairment in injury clauses. Consider adopting some of the “settlement limitations” imposed by other states.
Prevailing Wage: The ability to use non-prevailing wage labor for repairs and maintenance under a certain threshold will reduce costs for routine, non-life safety work. Many small businesses are not equipped to comply with prevailing wage administrative requirements, so changing these requirements would increase the ability of the County to use small local and emerging firms.
Labor Relations: Limit mandatory subjects of bargaining to wages and benefit time to allow the County to exercise efficiencies, such as changes of work hours to meet work demands. When unresolved contracts go to interest arbitration, more consideration should be given to other wage increases for County union and non-union employees.
Regional 911 Dispatch Consolidation: Lake County is exploring a consolidated 911 system to improve quality of emergency dispatch and response services and provide significant cost savings. A study to access the opportunities for 911 dispatch consolidation showed that its 17 emergency telephone systems (ETSB’s) and 24 public safety call centers (PSAP’s) spend approximately $33 million a year on operations. Projected overall operations savings range from $2.3 to $10.4 million, depending on the level of consolidation. The State of Illinois could assist local governments by creating an incentive – using existing funding streams – to encourage consolidation.
Publications and Records Retention: The County spends $8,000/year to publish bids and RFP’s in newspapers, even though any vendor can register on the County’s website and receive more data electronically. The County also spends $100,000 annually publishing assessment notices in the newspaper, and spends $230,000 in the General Assessment years. Illinois should consider changing the publication mandate if the County is communicating with property owners through either direct mail or electronic communication.
Elections: The most recent mandates imposed to expand options to register and vote, including provisional, early and grace period voting, voting by mail and bilingual ballots are expected to cost the County over $1 million. Illinois also mandates a certain number of staff at polling places with multiple precincts, when the County could identify more efficient staffing and save money.
*Nancy Mathieson has a 30-year career in business, securities regulation and public policy. She held positions at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where she was a Director of Market Surveillance and managed a professional staff in the investigation of securities trading violations.
She served as Operations Director at Truth in Accounting, a Chicago non-profit whose mission is to promote transparency in government financial reporting. In this role, she directed Accounting teams in grant-funded research studies on the financial condition of state and local municipalities.
Nancy was an officer of the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) in Stamford, CT and has lectured at the University of Connecticut. She received her B.S. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her M.B.A. from New York University.