Get to Know Your Local Official: County Board
The Illinois Constitution mandates that a county board be elected in each county.
The county board is both the legislative and executive branch of county government. As a legislative body, the board enacts ordinances and resolutions that can apply to the county as a region, including the cities within it, or specifically to the unincorporated area of the county.
As an executive body, the board administers the activities of county departments and offices, except those headed by the other elected county officials.
As the governing body, the county board adopts an annual budget for the county, establishes tax rates and authorizes bond issues, subject to voter approval.
In a quasi-judicial role, the board reviews zoning, planning and land use matters and considers appeals in granting or denying certain permits and licenses.
The county board is also empowered to establish and control special districts to provide services in unincorporated areas of the county.
Most county boards are organized into committees with members appointed by the chairman.
Some of the more standard committees include:
- Zoning and Building Committee recommends and enforces the county's zoning ordinances and regulations.
- Legislative Committee is responsible for monitoring, reviewing and recommending positions on state and federal legislation impacting local governments.
- Transportation Committee reviews all matters that involve the construction of county highways. It considers and makes recommendations relating to the maintenance and improvement of public road and bridge systems.
Major functions of county boards and commissions
Counties' governmental and service functions are broken into two broad categories: (1) functions that are mandated by state law or constitution, and (2) optional, or discretionary, functions that counties may choose to perform or not to perform.
- Hold meetings at prescribed times and publish a report of each meeting.
- Adopt an annual budget that appropriates funds to cover expenditures for various county offices and functions. Included in the overall budgeting responsibility is the obligation to prepare an annual financial report.
- Evaluate all claims made on county funds and prosecute or defend lawsuits brought by or against the county and any officers thereof. In the event that a lawsuit results in a judgment against the county or one of its officers, the board or commission is responsible for paying any damage awarded by the court.
- Have broad discretionary authority in the area of public and environmental health and safety. The county board may act as a board of health or establish a health department; provide for various emergency services; make available clinics, hospitals and shelters; and engage in environmental health activities.
- May engage in land use planning and zoning, including participating in regional planning, and may regulate in the area of building and safety codes, building permits, and subdivisions regulations.
- May provides social services, including making grants to community action agencies and providing services for youth, the aging, the mentally deficient, and neglected or delinquent children. Many counties in Illinois have provided funding to establish veterans' assistance agencies.
(Source: Inside the Courthouse Illinois Association of County Board Members)