Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is calling for the elimination of all unincorporated areas in the coming years in order to relieve the county's strained financial resources.
Under the proposal, nearby municipalities would annex the county's 62 square miles of unincorporated land, leaving towns and villages to pick up the cost for services like police protection and code enforcement.
Preckwinkle appointed a task force in November 2011 to investigate the provision of services to unincorporated Cook County, as well as the associated costs. The study was completed and results were announced during a press conference Monday morning.
According to Preckwinkle, recent budget reviews have shown that providing "municipal-type" services to the 98,000 residents in unincorporated Cook County is reducing available funds for the county's primary functions—health care and criminal justice.
According to Preckwinkle, the report determined that the elimination of unincorporated areas "will provide for more local control over local public policy decisions and allow the county to realize significant budget savings over time."
In the next year, municipalities will be encouraged to annex unincorporated parcels with fewer than 100 residents, with a specific focus on parcels smaller than 60 acres, according to the report.
Near-term goals include shifting the annexation push to larger parcels, and creating fee-for-service models and adjusting revenue streams to cover the costs of providing services to unincorporated areas.
During the press conference, Preckwinkle said she hopes to achieve the panel's goal by the end of the decade. The long-term savings for Cook County is still unknown, she said.
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