Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Local Government Proliferation: Illinois vs Missouri

Local Government Proliferation: Illinois vs Missouri

According to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, there are nearly 800 units of local government in the St. Louis region.

While most people think of the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County when they think local government balkanization, the picture is really more complicated than just that.

In southwestern Illinois, for example, municipalities are not the only relevant local government players. For better or for worse, most of us on the Missouri side think first of the City of East St. Louis when we think about local government in Illinois. There are also a number of other large cities and villages - in Illinois, some villages are large enough to be cities (such as the Village of Cahokia), but they just never made the switch.

Meanwhile, there are several layers of local government in much of Illinois. Township governments have a variety of duties, and service both unincorporated territories as well as the areas contained within municipalities. Some townships do road-building, some maintain cemeteries, some administer welfare programs.

In St. Clair County there are 22 townships today. Originally, these townships were pretty much square, with boundaries designated 150 or so years ago.

At some point, several new townships were created, as areas developed. Today, Stites Township is pretty much just Brooklyn IL; meanwhile, East St. Louis Township takes in the entire City of East St. Louis.

Centreville Township includes the villages of Centreville, Cahokia, Sauget, and some unincorporated areas in between them. Canteen Township includes Fairmont City, Washington Park, some unincorporated areas, and in an island unto itself, most of Alorton and the Golden Gardens neighborhood.

These townships are often major centers of patronage jobs and nepotism. For example, the Touchette family has controlled the Centreville township government for decades - hence the Touchette Regional Hospital (opened in 1958 originally as Centreville Township Hospital; now operated by Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation).

Then there's the school districts. In southern Illinois, some areas have what are called "Community Unit School Districts (CUSDs)" - for example, Cahokia CUSD 187 or East St. Louis 189. This simply means, as best I can tell, that the elementary schools and high school are all operated by the same school district.

Meanwhile, many areas - mostly rural, but also recently developing suburbs - still have two different layers of school districts: an elementary district and a high school district. For example, if you live in downtown Belleville, you're in both the Belleville (elementary) District 118, and the Belleville Township High School District 201 which overlaps with several different elementary districts.

Also, in cases where a district is called a "Community Consolidated School District (CCSD)", that just means that several old elementary one-room schoolhouse districts were consolidated to create a larger elementary school district. They still operate separately from the overlapping high school districts.

The CUSD/CCSD phenomena are related to the "R-7", "R-9", etc. designations familiar in St. Louis County school districts. The R means "Reorganized", reflecting the merger of several small one-room schoolhouse districts to create a larger district, to cope with the massive population explosions of the 1950s in St. Louis County. The numbers, like the 3-digit Illinois numbers, were just assigned pretty randomly. For example, there's Mehlville R-9 School District, Lindbergh R-8, Kirkwood R-7, etc.

These consolidations were controversial at the time, as the Parkway (C-2) School District 50th Anniversary web page notes.

In any event, it is fair to say that the Illinois portion of the region has about as much balkanization as St. Louis County does. While the political and legal frameworks may be different, it is no more likely in Illinois that major consolidations will happen now, than it is in Missouri.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When thinking of fragmentation, most think first of the munies, but there are really many other tax districts, and not just fire and school districts.

Fortunately, some of our taxing jurisdictions actually bridge the fragmentation, like ZMD, MSD and GRG. But smaller taxing units, though maybe not as ridiculous as Champ, are much more the regional norm, especially with all the SBDs, CIDs and TDDs.