Lake County, Illinois

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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Public records
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Transparency grading process

Lake County is the farthest north-east county in Illinois (Sunshine Review). In 2006, the United States Census Bureau estimated the population at 713,076. Its county seat is Waukegan. The county is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. According to the 2000 Census, Lake County is the 31st richest county by per capita income. The lakefront communities of Lake Forest and Highland Park are part of the affluent North Shore area.

Originally part of McHenry County, the townships comprising Lake County were carved out into a separate county in 1839. Naval Station Great Lakes is located in the city of North Chicago in Lake County. It is the United States Navy's Headquarters Command for training, and the Navy's only recruit training center.

Website evaluation

In 2011 Lake County earned a Sunny Award for having a perfect website transparency score.

Main article: Evaluation of Illinois county websites

This website was most recently evaluated on an unknown date.

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 10 years.[1]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[2]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and personalized email.
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[3][4]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 4 years.
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 4 years.
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[5]
    • Meeting video or podcasts are available.
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2003 are available.[6]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[7]
  • Public Records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the FOIA Officer position. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.
    • A public records form is provided.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.[8]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[9]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.[10]
  • Lobbying
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[13]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[14]

County Board

The Lake County Board is made up of 23 elected members. Board members serve on standing committees and provide policy and budget oversight of the county government.[3]

County Administrator

The County Administrator -- currently Barry Burton -- serves as the chief administrative officer for the county government, an organization of more than 2,800 employees and a $505 million budget. The average resident likely doesn’t recognize all the things that are happening behind the scenes to ensure your taxpayer dollars are being spent effectively and efficiently.[15]

Some of the County Administrator's primary responsibilities include:[15]

  • Implement policies of the County Board, including strategic priorities
  • Develop and oversee the budget and capital budget
  • Oversee the activities of all department heads appointed by the County Board
  • Coordinate and/or collaborate on countywide activities involving departments with elected and appointed department heads
  • Oversee Emergency Management Operations and Communications activities
  • Direct the County’s annual legislative program


Below are documents given on the Lake County website:[16]

The county is facing budget challenges, but was able to balance the budget with $9 million less from the previous years budget. Since 2009, the budget has been cut by $15 million. This was done partly by eliminating 113 positions, largely by holding vacancies. That has also been no discretionary spending, wage increases, and reduced funding for outside agencies. Q: Where does the money come from and where does it go?


Stimulus funds

Approximately $120 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding has been awarded or is anticipated for Lake County. Recently, $5.7 million was awarded to promote energy efficiencies and conservation strategies across various Lake County government operations. The County has also be awarded $1 million to provide financial and/or legal assistance to keep individuals in their homes or to assist individuals that have become homeless with obtaining a house. More than $5 million has been awarded to assist in job placement services and training for adults, youth and laid-off workers. About $3.6 million will be utilized to address the significant increase in new patients accessing services at the Health Department services for the first time. These funds will allow the department to increase staff and service hours to meet this increased demand, create a new access point clinic location on Grand Ave (currently under construction), and expand the Midlakes Clinic in Round Lake Beach. Lake County’s designation as a Recovery Zone provides the ability to issue up to $98 million in bonds at lower rates, thereby promoting economic development projects within the county.[17]

ARRA Grant Awards:[17]
Workforce Development

  • $5.6 million - Job placement and training for adults,for laid off workers, and job placement program for youth for two year period

Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center

  • $1.7 million - Funding to be utilized for expansion of the Midlakes Clinic and purchase of new computer servers
  • $1.3 million - Primary care services at a new community health center site in Waukegan
  • $648,000 - Offset increased demand/expenses for health services

Community Development

  • $4.6 million - Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1
  • $1.1 million - Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Assistance for Lake County to distribute
  • $1.1 million - Homeless Assistance for distribution by the Lake County Continuum of Care program
  • $691,000 - Community Development Block Grants for North Chicago, Waukegan and Lake County for shovel-ready infrastructure projects

Finance and Administrative Services

  • $5.7 million - Energy Conservation Related Programs

Economic Development

  • $59 million - Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds fo public infrastructure projects
  • $39 million - Recovery Zone Facility Bonds for public infrastructure projects

State's Attorney

  • $268,283 - Funding for creation of one victim assistance counselor position for a three year period to assist with domestic violence, cyber crime and financial related cases

Information Technology

  • $161,269 - Process LiDAR data (through the U.S. Geological Survey)


Main article: Lobbying in Lake County, Illinois

Lake County has spent at least $973,749.63 since 2005 on government sector lobbying. The County is a member of the following lobbying associations:[18]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying is the use of public funds by governments to influence other levels of government. Counties, for example, will pay lobbyists to influence the state or the federal government. This type of lobbying is often not disclosed to constituents. Counties hire lobbyists on a contractual basis, have lobbyists on staff, or join groups which promote or oppose legislation on their behalf. Lobbyists also help counties seeking specific projects or appropriations.

Lake County's lobbying consists of two contracts with lobbyists, including Kolkmeier Consulting. It belongs to four government sector lobbying associations, including National Association of Counties.

For more on Lake County lobbying, see the main article.

Lobbying since 2005
$ lobbying total $ Illinois $ federal government $ lobbying groups # lobbying contracts # lobbying groups
$973,749.63 $258,423.26 $507,206.22 $208,120.15 2 4

Public employee salaries

Main article: Lake County employee salaries

Lake County salaries are salaries paid to elected officials and county employees.The Lake County website does not include compensation for elected officials or county employees. The website does not also list a total number of county employees.


Main article: _(Sunshine_Review)|Illinois Public Pensions

Lake County offers four pension plans to its employees. Two of the plans are for law enforcement employees. As of 2009 the Lake County's annual cost for its four pensions total $1.4 million. None of the four plans are fully funded, according to the website. [19] As of 2008 the two IMRF plans were 80.39 percent funded. The two law enforcement plans, SLEP, were 48.72 percent funded. The IMRF plans had an unfunded liability of $6.1 million. The SLEP plans had an unfunded liability of $1.5 million.

The Lake County website does not include a breakdown of how many employees opt into each pension plan.

Illinois is facing a crisis with its publicly funded pensions. In 2010 state government was responsible for over $130 billion in pension payments, however they only had $46 billion set aside, which leaves an unfunded liability of about $85 billion. [20] Finding a way to fund that $85 billion will be the focus of the 2011 general assembly. The Pew Center for the States reported that as of 2008, Illinois is one of the worst states at contributing to its pension systems. State lawmakers will consider selling $4 billion of bonds to pay the state's annual payment on the five pension programs it runs. [21] In April, the state legislature created a two-tier system for all municipal and state employees—including teachers and state lawmakers—hired after Jan 1, 2011. Police and fire were included in an earlier draft but removed shortly before the vote. For the others, retirement was raised to 67. [22]

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