Mike Walkup Asks, “Should We Get Rid of Townships?”

This is the third installment about township government that was written by McHenry County Board member-elect Mike Walkup:


What then is the actual cost of having townships versus not having them?

We couldn’t say back when Bob Anderson was making his pitches to abolish townships but there has since been a study.

Linda Moore’s opposition to replacing the old Grafton Township Hall with one that would cost $5 million (including interest) led to her victory over Supervisor John Rossi.

In 2004, Cook County townships were studied in terms of efficiency and cost and it was concluded that if those townships were abolished and their essential functions were taken over by other units of local government, the net savings would be FIFTY PER CENT.

Granted these were more urbanized townships than most of those in McHenry County, but Algonquin Township is almost identical to those Cook County suburban townships.

Why then do we still have townships?

We have townships because they are there.

Once something is there, people are there who have a vested interest in staying there.

If we were to turn local government over to Bain Capital, the first thing they would do is dissolve township government.

Ironically, it is the Republican Party which is most invested in the continuation of township government, as more counties, and hence more townships, throughout the state are in Republican areas.

Townships are a good place for local politicians to get their start.

We have several current and former County Board members who started out on township boards.

Dick Klemm, who eventually became State Senator, started at the township.

His ex wife, who shares his surname, was previously County Board Chair and is now a township Supervisor.

They are also a great place to retire.

he way the government retirement system works is you multiply the total number of years you were in government employment times the salary you received during your last years to come up with your pension amount.

The fact that you didn’t make much during most of those earlier years does not reduce your pension.

It is not based on what you paid in, in contrast to most private pension plans.

For example, we currently have three township Supervisors in McHenry County who served for many years on the County Board, and another who is expected to be running for Supervisor.

Mike Walkup

While on the Board, they didn’t earn much as some of them worked on a per diem basis in past years.

When they retire today, however, they will become entitled to generous pensions based on their Supervisor salaries.

It is a great way to boost your pension.

What has been the track record of attempts to abolish township government?

Bob Anderson was the only one in the state as far as I know to be able to surmount the legal hurdles to even get the question on the ballot.

When he did so, the county was swarmed by township people from all over the state and money poured in from the state township lobbying organization.

Literally thousands of signs appeared saying: “Township Government/The Government Closest To The People.”

That will happen again if anyone is so bold as to try to abolish an individual township anywhere in the state. If one township falls, the county will have to scramble to figure out how to replace its functions, which will show that it can be done without the world ending. This will be the death knell of townships everywhere.

The County Executive referendum supporter yard sign.

There will likely only be one of these contests going on at any one time so the entire weight of the extremely powerful Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) will be able to descend on the plucky locals.

Whoever wants to do this will need a lot of money and a lot of volunteers.

They are also going to need a good slogan that can fit on a sign or bumper sticker.

Jack Franks may have given it to them in his recent attempt to create a County Executive.

How about


It could be a winner.

Next installment, Politics


Mike Walkup Asks, “Should We Get Rid of Townships?” — 18 Comments

  1. really cal?

    who is this mike walkup guy and why is he all over this blog?

    Is it true that he is a RINO?

  2. When you can’t attack the message… attack the messenger.

    I, for one, think that this is an important and worthy discussion, no matter the messenger.

  3. Considering Illinois has almost 7,000 units of government, yeah I think it is time to start some consolidation.

  4. Although Cook county couldn’t possibly do the job the townships do cheaper, both systems need to be modernized, pared back, and duplication of services eliminated.
    In Cook County I’d be in favor of eliminating BOTH of them except for a few vital county offices. It would be beneficial to the Chicago taxpayer too:
    Don’t need county forest preserve, have city parks
    Don’t need County sheriff, have CPD
    Don’t need county board, have city counsel
    Don’t need county highway, have streets & san
    Don’t need county clerk, have city clerk
    Don’t need county treasurer, have city treasurer…. et al

  5. I am so glad this Trilogy is finally over.

    We can presumably get away from science fiction and get to something of importance.

    Now we are comparing Cook County to McHenry County.

    There is no place like cook County except Cook County.

    To insinuate they are comparable is crazy.

    I hope you will have an equally discerning eye while serving on the McHenry County Board.

    We should just do everything like Cook County.

    It is working so well there.

  6. Preston: Unfortunately for you, the series is not quite over and you disappoint me by lapsing into hyperbole.

    You were doing a good job before citing, you know, facts.

    There is no reason why we cannot elect a County Assessor, regardless of who else has it or does not have it.

    If all the townships in teh county were to be abolished, we would need to do that.

    That person would have the advantage, moreover, of being elected during an election cycle that people actually show up for, as will be discussed in the next installment.

    Why is it so hard for people to discuss actual issues?

  7. Mike is right, the election of a County Assessor, or continued appointment of one of the calibre of Robert Ross, the current supervisor of assessments, would be helpful.

    With townships we have the untenable situation where the township assessors are elected and only answer to themselves, while the Supervisor of Assessments is appointed.

    It is a crazy setup, the whole system needs to be revamped and the Supervisor should have final authority.

    I am only afraid that unqualified political hacks would run for the office and do their pals “favors”.

  8. Mike,

    Sorry..I didn’t mean to hyperbolate you.

    I was just in shock that you would compare McHenry County with anything in Cook County.

    If you were to site some specific information quantifying the similarities I would gladly consider it.

    Township Assessors are accountable to the electors of that Township through the election process.

    Their Assessments are performed in a uniform manner using the same method as other Townships.

    The multiplier can add a correction factor to assessments.

    Since I live in a small Township I can have an impact on who is my local assessor under the current system. Under a county wide elected assessor, small Townships ( in population ) would have very little influence in electing the assessor.

    This would also be true if the County Board Chairman were to be elected county wide.

    It is also true on the present County Board where the entire western half of the county is represented by only four County Board members.

    This is why many times County Board members from the urban side of the county (eastern) do not understand the problems of the rural side of the county (western) and yet they run the county by sheer voting power.

    I am not suggesting that eastern Board members ignore the west side of the County but only that they have a different lifestyle that makes it difficult to understand some rural concerns.

    I am sure that if we add the County Assessor Office budget with all of the Township Assessor budgets it will be no where near the budget of the Cook County Assessor’s Office.

    Since this is about saving money I suggest a similar system in McHenry County would cost significantly more than the present system.

    Let’s consider a few of the good points of having so many units of government in Illinois.

    It allows more people to be involved in decisions that affect our communities.

    Many of these Boards do not recieve pay such as Library Boards, Fire District Boards, Park Boards, etc..

    The people that sit on these Boards have an interest in the organizations purpose.

    A centralized body making decisions on a new fire truck, a library, police pensions, swingsets, sewer expansion etc. may not spend the time necessary to make prudent decisions on so many diverse subjects.

  9. Mike, you should really reach out to Sam Yingling State Rep Elect for D62.

    He has been leading the charge for reform.

    That charge doesn’t sit well with elected township officials, so in addition to the BGA, I am sure he could use more friends.

  10. Township Assessors MUST meet certain requirements before even running for office.

    We should have similar requirements to post on this blog AND to run for ANY political office.

    Anyone who is actually interested in studying FACTS about townships in Illinois should visit: http://www.toi.org/Resources/Download-Center.aspx

    You can start by clicking on: Cox Chicagoland Brochure 2012 General Township Topics 3/9/2012

    Mr. Walkup owes an apology to people who read this blog – he has misled them with not only distortion of the facts but actual untruths.

    Now, he will say where.

    y answer is read the Cox reports.

    In addition you may want to research what happened in Indiana when they started to eliminate township assessors.

    Our country was built with a public educational system that was very local.

    Since the inception of the Federal Department of Education we have managed to decimate that formerly effective system.

    The current drive to centralize power (apparently supported by Mr. Walkup) will result in higher costs, poorer service and a power hungry bunch of politicians.

    As this last election has proven, you can get elected by “low knowledge” voters eg. Jackson and Smith in Chicago.

    Is this the primary goal of consolidation?

  11. Thanks for getting back to the facts,(more or less), recent posters.

    Please go to http://www.roosevelt.edu for the 2004 study on Cook County townships. (search for “townships, cook county, 2004 study”).

    It is on pdf format.

    It does an analysis of costs of services with and without townships in suburban Cook County (sorry about the reference to Cook County but tell me what the difference is between Palatine Township and Algonquin Township in terms of population, size, and area in municipal control).

    It concludes by saying:

    “Serious consideration should be given to reduce the complexity of government by abolishing an unneeded form of government. In this era of business consolidation to obtain greater economies and efficiences, there is no need for the complexity in public service delivery that exists from this unnecessary level of government. Government could benefit from emulating the business model and reduce the layering of unnecessary governments. Not only would efficiency and effectiveness improve, it would free tax money for other uses. It would also increase government accountability. The township, particularly in urban areas, has outlived its usefulness and should be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

  12. ……particularly in urban areas,…….

    Mike, been WEST of Route 47 lately??

  13. As stated by Mr. Rea: THIS IS NOT COOK COUNTY!

    Contrary to what some may want to do to make McHenry look like Cook, we, the residents do not want any part of if.

    If Mr. Walkup is not happy with how Algonquin Township is being run, he could help assist some new people to run for those offices.

    In the interim, people will be well served to look up information for themselves instead of counting on people like Mr. Walkup who posts near sighted biased information – imho.

  14. how can you compare the largest township in the county to the smallest township in cook county?

    Try and compare the median townships in each county, youll find an extreme difference

    Comparing Cook County townships and Mch Cty townships is like comparing apples and oranges

  15. For less than 100 bucks a year on my tax bill the township taxes are not a hot topic for me.

    Now the school districts and MCC… that’s another story!

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