Before I post the next installment of McHenry County Board-elect Mike Walkup’s thoughts on township government in Illinois, let me point out that someone forged his name on a comment under the first article.
The poster used the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. If another email from that address comes, it will be marked as “spam.”
The person posted that Walkup wanted to be County Board Chairman. Here is Walkup’s reply:
“I did NOT send the blog entry on the County Chair position.”I DO NOT want to be the Chair and would refuse to serve if somehow I was magically elected.
“This post should be removed immediately!
“Someone is playing dirty tricks here.”
I have chosen to leave the fraudulent comment up, so you can see the dishonesty of the poster.
It is obvious that there are heated opinions on township government. Lots of people have no idea what it does–including a neighbor who brought up the subject while I was passing out my precinct letter.
Those who want to run for township office have to file petitions from November 19th through November 26th with the township clerk. Prior to filing petitions, an economic disclosure statement must be filed with the County Clerk.
The number of signatures is minimal and the pay for some of the offices is quite good. With unemployment what it is, people with lots of time to knock on doors might snag some really decent paying jobs for a minimal printing expense. For instance the Algonquin Township Supervisor pays $66,655.40 for the first two years and will rise to $69,348.28 in the final year, plus $1,000 for being the Road District Treasurer. (See other Algonquin Township salaries here.
Continuing the Township Government Series – Part 2
When I was campaigning for County Board, the most common question by far was “why are my taxes not going down if my property is worth less?”
It is natural to assume that if your tax bill comes from the county and you write your check to the county, that it is the county that is responsible for your assessments.
This is not the case. Assessments are done by local township assessors, of which there are 17 in McHenry County. The county has nothing to say about assessments. [I have to take issue with this statement. The County Supervisor of Assessments has the power to equalize assessments on a township-by-township basis and can even drill down farther in the process. There are Supervisor of Assessments who have assumed the role of the township assessor when the assessor does not do the job.]
When townships were first formed, assessors rode around on their horse or in their buckboard essentially carrying the assessment records in their hatbands. It made sense to have the assessments done in a small area so the assessor could physically get around and develop a familiarity with the relatively small number of local properties.
Today, many townships have tens of thousands of properties and everything is done on a computer. In smaller townships, the assessor is part time and may have another job or a farm to contend with.
Assessments could very easily be handled today by the county government. Cook County has an elected County Assessor.
[I'd like to add some research data that Algonquin Township Assessor Forrest B. Hare developed in the 1970's. He compared the size of assessing jurisdictions with their margins of error throughout Illinois. Both townships and counties were included because there are no township assessors in Southern Illinois counties under the commission form of government. The organization seemed to make little difference from the standpoint of the accuracy of the assessments.
[What the data showed was that jurisdictions with at least 5,000 people had more accurate real estate assessments than jurisdictions that were smaller.
[The findings spurred me to sponsor the multi-township assessor bill. It allows smaller townships to join together for the function of assessing.]
Townships have elected Road Commissioners.
Again, when townships were formed, road repairs consisted of hitching up a buckboard, loading a couple of guys onto it with shovels, filling it with gravel, and going out to fill the potholes.
The wagon was heavy and the horse would get tired. It couldn’t go too far.
Township road crews only maintain township roads.
They have nothing to do with county, state or federal highways.
As the township grows in population, municipalities take over what used to be township roads, causing a crazy quilt patchwork where township road crews have to travel over municipal roads to get to now disconnected pieces of township blacktop.
The only reason that overall township road mileage tends to stay the same despite growth of municipalities is because of the unincorporated subdivisions that have also been built that have added miles of twisting roads and cul de sacs which continue to be the responsibility of the township.
Today, we have trucks with GPS systems.
The road maintenance function could just as easily be done at the county level.
If we would still like the Road Commissioner to be elected, the office of County Road Commissioner could be established.
As an aside, I should mention that there are 17 counties in Illinois which never had townships.
These are located mostly in the Southern portion of the state and are predominately rural.
They still have local road districts, so that could still be possible even without township organization.
So that’s it.
That is what townships do.
They do not function as local mini-governments for unincorporated areas as is sometimes claimed by their supporters.
They have very limited and specific functions, all of which could be done at the county level or other government levels if we didn’t have the townships.
Nxxt installment: What to do about townships