Considering Whether Township Governemnt Is Closest to the People

Commenter “Questioning” asked for background about my pointing out that those attending Annual Town Meetings don’t have the authority they used to have.

He wrote:

You say they took budgeting power away from the citizens.

Prior to that, did the citizens make the budget or approve of it?

Could you elaborate?

Younger viewers are curious; they might not really know about what things were like before 1973.

That was 48 years ago… Time flies!

Here is my reply:

Back when township government was closest to people, citizens who showed up at the Annual Meeting voted on the budget.

Two toownship Aniual Meetings passed budget measures that the elected officials did not like.

In Nunda Township, the residents of a non-dedicated (private) road who paid township taxes, but received no services, packed the meeting. They amended each line of the Road District’s budget to $1.

They undoubtedly want to punish the Road Commissioner (Geske, I think).

But they didn’t know enough about township government to figure out that the Road Commissioner’s salary came from the Town Fund, which they did not amend.

In Algonquin Township, supporters of Assessor Forrest B. Hare put $500 of the budget in a line item mandating the Township Attorney, Bill Frnaz, to sue the County Cupervisor of Assessments for overassessing township property owners (through a higher thanappropriate township multiplier, I believe).

The Township Officials of Illinois “reform” legislation took budgeting authority from the cvoters and gave it to the newly-named Township Trustees (who had been called “Auditors” before).

Remnants of citizen power still exist, as seen in McHenry Township over the last four years, so maybe one could argue that township government is closest to the people,” but it’s now a lot less close than it was prior to the early 1970’s.

2011 Grafton Townshijp Annual Meeting.

And, back in 2011, about 700 people attended a Grafton Township Annual Meeting at the behst of Supervisor Linda Moore.


Considering Whether Township Governemnt Is Closest to the People — 25 Comments

  1. Bob Anderson experienced this power, and didn’t like it.


  2. One of the problems with electors voting on the budget was that they wouldn’t approve adequate amounts for state mandated services they didn’t like, such as General Assistance and real estate assessment.

  3. No other form of Government legally allows direct access to the budget by voters.

    There should be a balanced budget amendment with tax rates tied to it, we can at least vote on.

    Pay attention, don’t blame the elected if You’re not attending meetings keeping them honest.

  4. Township are rater useless and corrupt.

    The nepotism reeks to High heaven.

    General assistance?

    What rubbish.

    Illegals sponge.

  5. Again, what do townships actually do any more?

    The answer is not much if you take away all of the feel good activities they were given after Bob Anderson and others started questioning their existence.

    Township Roads: Done by elected Road Commissioners. In townships over 15,000 this becomes a partisan office in which the GOP dominates the general elections so the real election is the sparsely attended GOP primary which takes place on the fourth Tuesday in February in odd nunbered years every four years. Turnout is invariably in the low singe digits. The county highway department could do this easily and wouldn’t have to turn the snow plows around every time they reached a township “line”. The Highway Department is overseen by the County Board who are elected. (note here that at one point the wife of the AL Township Road Commissioner was Chair of the County Transportation Committee).

    Assessments: Like road maintence, a necessary function but in the computer age can be better done in a centralized manner by the county which also ensures uniformity in assessments between townships. The county assessor could be converted to an elected office which would have far greater voter turnout than currently. (Turnout by residents of municipalities is usually low in township primaries but they are equally affected by assessments).

    Township Cemeteries. Need I say more.

    Interim Public Assistance. An unnecessary appendage to the much more comprehensive and better regulated state and federal safety net programs. Why can’t IDPA give people a check to tide them over for 30 days while their application is being processed?

    Chair yoga is not a township function.

    Government that is “closer to the people” does not equate with geography. We have cell phones now.

  6. BecauseScience

    With the financial condition Illinois is in, try to convince the General Assembly to direct IDPA to provide assistance to applicants. Moreover, why should it, when presently it can simply direct applicants to apply at the local township for assistance until when and if assistance from the County Department is approved and provided ?

    All I’m saying is that I doubt your proposed expansion of IDPA’s responsibility is viable.

  7. Innocent Primate, township General Assistance Programs are tax-payer rip-offs!!!

    McHenry Township’s G. A. Program?

    Only 3 people would qualify per month out of a population of about 50,000, costing thousands.

    Illinois is the only state in the U. S. that has this costly terrible offering.

    Just more make you feel-good from those living the good township life.

  8. How did Craig Adams get the boot from Pioneer Center after he blew a $2 million grant and wind up as McHenry Township Supervisor?

    How did Jim Condon file for (at least) 4 business and personal bankruptcies and Wind up as McHenry Township Road Pig-Commissioner?

    How did Jim Condon’s kid get hired by McHenry Township?

    How did disgraced Crook Bob ‘Disneyland’ Miller get hired as a “consultant” by Jim Condon?

    How does John Macrito serve as a McHenry Township trustee and up his wife’s pay which is double the Supervisor’s?

    How does Gary Barla become Supervisor without a public vetting and application Process? Gary what do you mean the Township Supervisor’s job is ‘part time’?

    How does Barla justify $22.30 in admin overhead to distribute $1 in ‘assistance’? That’s criminal, Gary!

    Why do so mary Township crooks end up in jail?

  9. Geal:

    Townships can get away with all of that because there is no oversight and no rules.

    Townships are creatures of the 1850’s when that sort of thing was the norm.

    Later, the Civil Service Act was passed to address that at the federal level and since then it has percolated down to most local governments, but not to townships.

    So the county has anti nepotism rules.

    These rules do not apply to countywide elected officials like the Sheriff, Clerk, Coroner etc which is how we got an husband and wife duo in the Clerk’s office.

    However they do apply to county departments.

    So, for example, the head of the Transporation Department cannot hire any close relatives that would be under his supervision, which is to say the entire department. A lower ranking supervisor could recommend a relative to a different department than the one he/she supervises but not to his/her own department.

    None of that exists for townships which are laws unto themselves.

    That’s how we get the Millers.

  10. Everybody knows that it’s best to keep consolidating and growing bigger, monolithic government. And steadily making it less and less possible for individual voters and taxpayers to impact it. Just look at the magic of County-level assessing by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi: knows that it’s best to keep consolidating and growing bigger, monolithic government. And steadily making it less and less possible for individual voters and taxpayers to impact it. Just look at the magic of County-level assessing by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi:

  11. Bob Anderson

    Townships are creatures of state government and county voters. You’re free to convince the General Assembly and county voters to discontinue township organization.

    I’m pretty sure both would listen to factually supported studies indicating that kicking township duties upstairs will result in taxpayer savings, not only at present but in the foreseeable future. Do you have such studies and, if so, why haven’t you presented them ?

  12. Condon is a notorious drunk. But with his wife, I gotta give him a pass.

  13. Show me one bill in the General Assembly that dissolves a Township and gives me ALL of my tax dollars back, and I’ll back it.

    But EVERY township dissolution bill that Bob Anderson pushes simply continues to take ALL my tax dollars and gives them to the County, instead.

    Bait and switch, Bob. Hard pass on that…

  14. Primate: There will never be any bills that pass the GA or are even introduced to curtail township government in any way shape or form due to the tremedous power of the Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) lobbying group, one of the most powerful lobbies in Springpatch.

    The only thing anyone can do is to try and get a referendum passed to eliminate or consolidate one or more townships.

    They can’t do anything about that because it is in the state constitution.

    Once one place gets rid of their township and the world doesn’t end, it will pave the way for others to follow.

    There is a study from 2002 involving Cook County townships, which are admittedly different as most of the township area is in municipalties, that concluded that there would be a 50% savings if those townships were abolished and the functions taken over by some combination of county and municipal entities.

    Algonquin Township however is similar to some Cook County townships in that regard.

  15. BecauseScience

    If we’re talking about the same constitutional provision (“The General Assembly shall provide by law for the formation of townships in any county when approved by county-wide referendum.

    Townships may be consolidated or merged, and one or more townships may be dissolved or divided, when approved by referendum in each township affected.

    All townships in a county may be dissolved when approved by a referendum in the total area in which township officers are elected.” (Ill.Const. of 1970, art. VII, § 5)),

    I read that to require the same method to discontinue township organization in an entire county as was required to adopt township organization county-wide (i.e., a county-wide referendum).

    In short, once township organization has been approved in a county-wide referendum, absent a county-wide referendum abolishing township organization every foot of a county must be in a township, although individual townships may be dissolved, divided, consolidated or merged by vote in the affected townships.

    Now, in recent years the General Assembly has enacted legislation targeting specific townships allowing such townships within a county to be dissolved and not in some fashion or other replaced by another township.

    To my knowledge none of those legislative measures have been challenged in court, however, query whether such acts aren’t in violation of the Illinois Constitution. T

    o begin with, if such acts are constitutional doesn’t that sequentially allow what the aforementioned constitutional provision says can only be accomplished by a county-wide referendum (i.e., dissolution of all townships within a township county absent a county-wide referendum) ?

    And wouldn’t that be doing an end-around a constitutional requirement (or, to put it another way, doing indirectly what the Illinois Constitution says can only be done through county-wide referendum) ?

    Second, special legislation is prohibited by the Illinois Constitution. (“The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a general law is or can be made applicable. Whether a general law is or can be made applicable shall be a matter for judicial determination.” (Ill.Const. of 1970, art. IV, § 13)).

    Now, special legislation is simply the obverse of discrimination, that is, granting, without a factual rationale, a special privilege to an individual or a small, identifiable group that does not apply to all the members of a given class.

    Now, what factual justification is there for choosing the residents of selected townships in the state and granting them a privilege withheld from the vast majority of township residents ?

    Sorry for being so prolix.

  16. You do realize the McSweeney’s bill mandted a 10% vut in the township tax rte, if the functions were transferred to countyu government right?

  17. Cal Skinner

    I’m unaware of the bill you reference.

    And I’m unclear about the reference to taxes.

    Are you saying that if a township’s functions are transferred to a county, the county can then take advantage of and levy what was previously a township tax rate, albeit lowered ?

    How, exactly, does that work ?

    Is such a tax then levied by a county but only applicable to the area previously encompassed by the township whose functions were transferred ?

    And can’t the county increase such a rate when and if it desires ?

    As I said, I’m unclear about how such a scheme would work.

    And I’d still question the constitutionality of any such scheme.

    I’m assuming such scheme only applies to designated locales.

    So, what makes the townships in those locales so “special” ?

  18. Nobody knows how it would work, and I think it only applies to year 1 (although Cal has pointed out that there is PTEL).

    It was McSweeney’s bill.

    He refused to answer questions about the bill.

    He held up his own bill when Rauner was in office, since there was word that Rauner would veto it, and he waited until JB Pritzker was in office to get it passed.

    Now McSweeney is gone but more than two years later not one township in McHenry County has opted to find out.

    The specific reference is below, but you can read the full text of the bill to learn more.

    McHenry County had this fixation the past several years about “cutting 10.”

    For some reason, 10 was like the magic number… Jack Franks ran a campaign on that when he ran for county board chairman in 2016.

    McSweeney thought the number was good too and put it in the township bill.

    (4) The McHenry County Board shall not extend a
    24 property tax levy that is greater than 90% of the property
    25 tax levy extended by the dissolved township or road
    26 districts for the duties taken on by McHenry County. This

    HB0348 Enrolled – 21 – LRB101 06955 AWJ 51988 b

    1 property tax levy may not be extended outside the
    2 boundaries of the dissolved township. In all subsequent
    3 years, this levy shall be bound by the provisions of the
    4 Property Tax Extension Limitation Law.

  19. Correcting

    Thank you. I’d like to take a look at this bill.

    Just looking at the last couple of lines above, I have a lot of some questions.

    I mean, just reading those lines seems to me to create a administrative nightmare.

    For example, is a separate fund to be created with respect to this new additional county tax levy so that revenue generated from it can be identified and tracked ?

    (I can imagine the County Clerk and the County Treasurer are already getting a headache.)

    Is it limited to 90% of the last extension by the dissolved township forever ?

    Can the revenue generated be used to benefit non-residents of the previously dissolved township (i.e., county residents who don’t reside in the previously dissolved township, in short, for general county purposes) ? And etc., etc.

    Again, thanks.

  20. Primate: “Townships may be consolidated or merged, and one or more townships may be dissolved or divided, when approved by referendum in each township affected.”

    So “one…..township may be dissolved or divided when approved by referendum in each township affected” which is say that township alone.

    That’s how I would read it.

    So you can abolish one township at a time by referendum in that township alone.

    Bob Anderson did get a referendum on the ballot to dissolve only McHenry Township.

    His first effort fell short of the number of valid signatures but the township did not challenge the idea that it could be done.

    On his second try he got it on the ballot without objection.

    It failed miserably.

    The McSweendy bill which allows only Algonquin Township to do this is probably “special legislation” but I don’t think it was ever challenged on that basis.

    An attempt to get that on the ballot also failed for the signature requirments.

  21. Senator Craig Wilcox crafted languare, which Rep. McSweeney adopted, to make sure that McHenry County’s township replacement taxes had to be spent for the benefit of Algonquin Township residents.

  22. BecauseScience

    Well, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on the constitutional language. (Ill.Const. of 1970, art. VII, § 5).

    In addition, if you acknowledge that an enactment that only authorizes one township to have a dissolution referendum possibly constitutes impermissible special legislation, doesn’t any such legislation which doesn’t authorize every township in the entire state to hold such a referendum ?

    After all, isn’t the relevant “class” for purposes of determining whether special privileges are granted without any factual rationales to one or a few of the class consist of all the townships in the state ?

    (“The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a general law is or can be made applicable.” (Ill.Const. of 1970, art. IV, § 13)). What makes the authorized townships so “special” in relation to every other township in the state ?

    Cal Skinner

    We’re talking about county government, right ?

    Isn’t what the legislation provides with respect to how such increased tax revenues have to earmarked simply an indication of how ludicrous all these crazy quilt schemes are ?

    For example, I’m assuming assessment functions for the defunct township will now be assumed by the county assessment office.

    How does it ensure that any additional revenues it receives attributable to the town fund levy of the defunct township (assuming there is even a way of quantifying that) will only be spent with regard to assessment functions performed with respect to the defunct township ?

    It just seems like a God awful mess, all in quest of the chimerical savings from those crushing township taxes.

    And there’s a way to discontinue townships if so desired — simply go to a county-wide referendum.

    But, of course, if that’s not in the cards, better to make a pig’s breakfast of the law and local government administration.

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