Below is the statement that McHenry County Board member Mike Walkup, a candidate for McHenry County Board Chairman in the Republican Primary Election next spring, is making to the Board’s Legislative Committee. State Senator Pam Althoff is attending the meeting.
CHANGES NEEDED IN TOWNSHIP LAW
Article VII of the State Constitution provides that “individual townships may be ….dissolved, by referendum in the total area affected.”
(a) The Township Code, however, makes no provision for a referendum to dissolve an individual township. It does, however, require 10% of the registered voters to petition where all of the townships in a county are sought to be dissolved.
The Election Code provides a different requirement for situations in which there is no statutory provision but where a referendum is otherwise allowed.
This results in incorrect advice being given by state legislative offices.
(b) There are no provisions for counties or other local governmental entities to take over functions formerly performed by townships that have been dissolved by referendum. Under the Rule of Dillon’s Case, a non home rule County (any county which does not have a County Executive form of government), may not do anything for which there is no express authorization.
(c) If a township is abolished, dicta in [Bob] Anderson vs. McHenry Township, 2d. District, indicates that the abolition would become effective immediately after election results are certified without any transition period. A petition that states “SHALL ______TOWNSHIP BE DISSOLVED” is currently the only acceptable form of the question so there is no provision to specify a date at which the dissolution would become effective, such as the next township election date. Should someone try to insert same, it could draw objections.
(d) There is no provision to dissolve or consolidate a Road District distinct from other portions of the township. Those counties in Illinois which do not have townships nevertheless have township style road districts, which suggests that the Road Districts are separate entities.
(e) Whereas the need to dissolve a township, or especially a Road District, may increase as the population of the township increases and less land and road mileage is unincorporated, the signature requirements for a citizen sponsored referendum petition go up making it more difficult as population grows. There should therefore be a cap on the total number of signatures required, or perhaps some other method chosen to place a referendum.
(f) If one township is dissolved, particularly a more populous one, it could raise a question as to whether or not that county is still considered to be a “county under township organization” for the purpose of the Counties Code, as not all citizens within the county will now be living “under township organization”, thereby possibly causing the County Board to be dissolved in favor of a three member Commission form of government.
(g) The entire dichotomy between “counties under township organization” and “counties not under township organization” in the Counties Code needs to be abolished as there are no longer really any “counties under township organization” in that the county boards are no longer composed of township supervisors. This would also allow those counties with a Commission form of government in which all of the Commissioners are elected at large to go to individual districts if so desired.
(a) There is currently no provision to blend the tax rates of two or more townships that are consolidated so as to avoid tax increases. This became the sticking point on the latest effort.
(b) Township size is limited to 126 square miles which prevents larger townships or the possibility to consolidate all townships into one township that is co-terminous with the county. The latter would allow for continuation of township functions, with elected representatives for road maintenance, assessments, and distribution of interim public assistance rather than having those functions placed under the tutelage of a non elected appointed county transportation department head, and non elected assessor. Interim public assistance would also be eliminated unless a township supervisor position is continued.
“Townships may be consolidated or merged, or one or more townships may be dissolved or divided, when approved by referendum in each township affected.”
As dissolution and consolidation of townships are guaranteed by the State Constitution, no amount of legislation can abrogate the rights of citizens to petition for referendum to either dissolve or consolidate townships.
Due to the current lack of legislative guidance and consistency, however, attempts by citizens to either dissolve or consolidate one or more townships, if successful at the polls, will result in chaos and the need for emergency action by the legislature on very short notice, in order to continue road maintenance and assessments, at a minimum. Consideration should also be given to whether or not the interim public assistance function should be continued in light of other state and federal benefit programs now available.