By Tom Robb
A Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning report, released last month and commissioned by Cook County, says scenarios for annexing unincorporated areas of Maine and Northfield townships could cost surrounding municipalities between $500,000 and $8 million each.
A cost benefit analysis in the CMAP Fiscal Impact of Annexation, Maine-Northfield Unincorporated Area Plan divides up unincorporated Maine and Northfield into five subareas. The analysis released net anticipated costs for Niles, Des Plaines and Glenview to annex portions of those subareas under 10 scenarios, after tax revenues from those areas were added.
Costs range between $553,000 to $8.08 million for an individual municipality under each of those scenarios, the report said. Costs related to Park Ridge were not listed in the report alongside Des Plaines, Glenview and Niles.
The Cook County Planning and Development Department accepted the larger Maine-Northfield Unincorporated Area Plan in late June, but the plan has not come before county commissioners at a county board meeting, or committee meeting, to be considered for formal adoption by the county.
The new CMAP report says the county is taking in less tax revenue, to fund services for unincorporated Maine and Northfield residents, than it is taking in. Township governments are also not set up to provide the same types of services to residents in municipalities, the report says.
Officials from Des Plaines, Glenview and Niles said they would be open to hearing any formal request from Cook County, but expressed concerns about how much adding areas would cost municipalities.
“The Village of Glenview appreciates the efforts of Cook County and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning related to the development of the Maine-Northfield Unincorporated Area Plan,” Senior Glenview Village Planner Jeff Brady said. “Before the village can even begin to analyze the various scenarios included within the plan, as well as their impact on Glenview taxpayers, the county needs to complete its evaluation of the improvements required and investment necessary for these unincorporated areas.”
Des Plaines City Manager Mike Bartholomew was more direct: “It comes down to the bottom line. We’re always willing to listen [to proposals from Cook County] but it comes down to who pays for it, because we can’t.”
Said Niles Village Manager Steve Vinezeano: “We’re always willing to consider an offer [from Cook County], but why would a municipality take on those added costs, which would generate more long term costs?”
Niles generates most of its revenue from sales taxes. Vinezeano said while some communities with populations of 50,000 or more are able to qualify for Community Development Block grants, Niles would need to gain about 20,000 to achieve that population, making that possibility unfeasible.
Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton (D-14th), a former Glenview village trustee, was assigned to be the point person for Cook County to discuss the plan with Glenview, Niles, Des Plaines and Park Ridge officials. He said so far, he has had conversations with Glenview Village President Jim Patterson.
Britton said he knows costs are prohibitive for municipalities. “We need to get them (municipal leaders) from ‘no’ to, yes, maybe’.” He said additional money could be available from the county both in the short term or three to five years, and said the state could be another source of funding.
He said he would also look to special service area agreements with municipalities, the county and individual neighborhoods to bring infrastructure up to municipal standards.
Britton said he spent the day with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Thursday (Aug. 1) and discussed parts of the report with her. Britton said she wants to hold a roundtable discussion with municipal leaders soon.
Britton said he would put together a more localized plan with more defined costs within the next 60 days.
CMAP Senior Planner Jake Seid said there are three areas where municipalities would likely see added expenses if they were to annex unincorporated areas into their municipalities:
The first would be infrastructure. Some unincorporated areas are not required to have the same standards for roads, sidewalks, sewers and other elements which Cook County allows. Bringing that infrastructure up to city and village standards would incur expenses.
Other added expenses for municipalities could include more equipment such as snow plows, firefighting equipment and police cars along with added staff — a longer term recurring expense.
Seid said some financing, or shared expenses similar to that for capital expenses, could be borne by Cook County for some of that needed extra equipment.
Another portion of the report Seid pointed to says some assets could be “leveraged” in a transition when areas are being incorporated into a village. One asset is the North Maine Fire Protection District, a fully functioning fire department paid for through taxes of unincorporated residents with its own elected governing board of trustees. Seid said the department could be taken over by an existing municipal fire department, if a large enough area were annexed.