Comments on Township Abolition by Referendum Legislation – Part 4

More comments on State Rep. David McSweeney’s bill to allow McHenry County voter to abolish townships by referendum:

“bred winner’s” comment:

Look up your own real estate tax bill at the McHenry County Treasurer web site. It will have a breakout of taxing bodies with a pie chart. Township part of our tax bill is tiny.

Schools take from 2/3 to 3/4 of our high tax bills.

The problem in our State of Illinois, the worst State of 50 in the U.S. fiscally, is outrageously high salaries, benefits and pensions for government workers including teachers and administrative staff.

Rather than abolishing or consolidating townships, efforts should be directed at consolidating school districts, eliminating redundant school administrative positions, elimination of COLAs and haircuts for too-high salaries and pensions of all people working in government jobs or government retirees in Illinois.

From grafton taxpayer:

To Bred Winner’s point, township consolidation would have minimal effect on your tax bill anyway.

As a percentage of your property tax compared to school districts it is minimal.

This smells of a window-dressing campaign issue, where the optics are good but the net result is nil or negative.

The functions of a township (roads, assessments, GA) will continue to need to be met if it’s given to the County regardless.

Having said that, I personally would always prefer a smaller government body to a larger one.

It is more responsive, more attuned and more accessible.

Litigation issues aside in some local townships, by and large the trustees examine every last penny being spent, do their best to hold the road and assessor’s offices accountable for their (independent and separate) budgets, and are easily accessed by concerned public citizens.

Where does consolidation end?

Do we absorb village government into County, County into State?

Imagine where your concern is one of 10 in your township/road district.

Now imagine it’s one of 100 in your village, one of 1000 in your county, on of 1,000,000 in your state?

I’d always prefer the smaller unit, where elected officials are accountable to, literally, their neighbors.

Here is a link to an earlier post on the blog about running for elected office, and it starts with the premise that “All politics is local” – which is largely true.

Unless, of course, we consolidate the local out of politics.

“concerned taxpayer” adds:

Thank you bred winner.

Township expenditures on a property tax bill are miniscule compared to the school districts.

This is a smoke and mirror “look at me trying to fix things” mistake compared to the REAL fiscal problems in this state.

And consolidating what money the townships spend into the County doesn’t mean that money doesn’t still need to be spent (roads, assessments, GA, etc.).

The fact of the matter is smaller units of government are more ACCOUNTABLE and RESPONSIVE to citizens’ problems than bigger units of government.

Imagine having a local issue and trying to get your state representative to address it, much less fix it.

If you climb the ladder by consolidating, now your problem is 1 of 10,000 instead of 1 of 10 that a local unit of government can address.

And most of the money still needs to be spent.

There are some concerning local examples of litigation issues in Townships, well covered by this blog.

But by and large, especially in this fiscally conservative Republican county, township trustees examine literally every penny spent.

And try their best to find ways to continue to cut levies – because they are accountable to, literally, their neighbors.

I don’t see a solution with consolidation, just less responsive government and window-dressing savings. If this gets to a referendum, vote no.


Comments on Township Abolition by Referendum Legislation – Part 4 — 8 Comments

  1. To provide some history on this:

    The state constitution does provide that any township may be dissolved, or all of the townships in a county may be dissolved, on referendum of the voters in the total area affected. However it does not provide any mechanism for doing so, which means you resort to general election law or any specific legislation that has been enacted.

    The requirements for such petitions started to be changed back and forth when a movement developed in a couple of different counties, one of which was McHenry County, to try and abolish all of the townships in those counties at once.

    The township lobby freaked out and the early 90’s saw the petition requirements see saw back and forth several times along with changes in the suggested language of the petitions.

    Bob Anderson got caught in the switches on this and his petitions were challenged after he had collected 13,000 signatures. He eventually prevailed in court but not until a few days before the election. The referendum failed at the polls by a wide margin.

    Following this, the legislature, at the behest of the township lobby, changed the requirements so that 3/4ths of townships in a county had to approve the dissolution instead of just a majority of the voters.

    They had also attempted to change the signature requirements so that 10% of the registered voters in each township would have to sign a petition to get it on the ballot instead of just 10% of the voters in the county, making mass circulations at stores, parades, county fairs, etc. less fruitful. This was later withdrawn after a successful court challenge.

    Bob Anderson then made two attempts to abolish only McHenry Township, pursuant to the constitutional provision.

    The first one was heard by the Township Electoral Board despite objection by Anderson that this Board had a conflict of interest inasmuch as all of it’s members received salaries or per diem pay which would be eliminated if the township were dissolved. Anderson successfully appealed but on re-hearing by a more impartial board, fell a few signatures short.

    Undeterred, he proceeded again with more signatures and this time the then new Township Supervisor Donna Schaeffer, did not object. However, the McHenry Township voters again turned it down by a similar margin to the first county wide attempt.

    Now we have the McSweeney bill, which, unlike earlier legislation, is limited to McHenry County. It addresses some of the transition questions that plagued earlier abolition attempts but does so incompletely. It also lowers the signature requirement and brings it into line with the particular type of election at which the referendum will be on the ballot, thus allowing petitioners to opt for a lower turn out election with a lower signature requirement. It also allows a township board to put the referendum on the ballot on its own.

    What remains to be seen is how the voters will view this, regardless of what election cycle it appears on.

    The most recent attempt, to consolidate the McHenry Township Road District and bring it under the control of the Township Board, also failed by a wide margin.

    If such an effort is placed on the ballot at a low turnout election, such as the township elections, there will be a disproportionate number of people who live on township roads who turn out, thus lessening the chances of passage.

    If it is placed on the ballot at a high turnout general election, as was the case with the previous attempts, you get a large number of voters who are unfamiliar with the issue voting on it anyway. It appears that their default is to vote against any changes.

    The best bet may therefore be a primary election. The next one, in 2020, however, promises to also be pretty high turnout if 2016 was any guide. (All voters will vote on a referendum, regardless of the party primary they select).

  2. But these two observers forget about the complete lack of transparency of the corrupt townships and their nepotism and contract-kickback scams.

    Bobby Miller’s multi-million corruption over the years (wife secy. making $100k, sons-in-law making even more, the Disneyland and Hotters’ crazy days on the Township credit cards; the Louis Vuitton purses bought on Amazon w/ township cash; the $300K worth of missing VISA gift cards — supposedly for mailbox/township snowplow mishap-compensations –and that’s just for 2015 & 16; etc. etc.) is the perfect example.

  3. I think that Illinois government workers that receive a pension from the State of Illinois and its taxpayers should be taxed more or receive less if they move out of state.

    If they retire and live here they buy things, pay taxes, and contribute to Illinois but if they move to Seattle or some other town that Illinois money is in no way helping Illinois.

  4. “How about township government?

    A recent Better Government Association investigation of the 20 largest townships in Cook County found that township officials stockpile millions of dollars in property taxes and overpay for repairs and maintenance on a small number of roads.

    Townships exist to preserve political jobs. Townships spend almost $1 on salaries and administration for every $1 in services they deliver, about twice as much as other local governments, according to a 2008 report by Roosevelt University professor David Hamilton. …

    Township government “is a waste. It’s archaic. We need to move forward,” said Evanston Ald. Ann Rainey. “I know very few people — unless they are township recipients or township employees — who really understand and embrace the township form of government.””

  5. I’m so tired of this “consolidate the schools” argument.

    First of all, it’s a non sequitur.

    Whether other units of government have flaws (a given) is irrelevant to what to do about townships.

    Second, the arguments against townships have much more to do with the ministerial positions and the lack of voter oversight than with a minor difference in cost.

    And third and most important, the evidence is absolute that combining school districts RAISES costs.

    First of all, the theory: governmental incentives are perverse and favor increasing expenses, not lowering costs.

    Second, the contracts: if two districts merge, which pay scale do you think is going to prevail, the higher one or the lower one.

    And finally, I have performed a statistical analysis of ALL the school districts in Illinois over many different fiscal years, and the results are always identical:

    (a) there is NO difference in outcomes based on expenditures per pupil;

    (b) there is NO difference in outcomes based on teacher salaries;

    (c) there is NO difference in outcomes based on teacher experience.

    There is only ONE statistically significant correlation:

    larger districts spend more per pupil than smaller districts.

  6. I am a commenter from the future.

    The year is 2021.

    Let us discuss a possible referendum which is highly important, no?

    Fate is in our hands, comrades, now that Lord Gasbag has relocated to the state of Mississippi.

    What is to be done now?

    Big thanks to State Rep. David McBurger for delaying this bill and giving us two additional years to ponder this topic.

    *sips fluoride water*

  7. As to school district consolidation, as Steve indicated, the new district would have to operate under the worst-run operating cost structure (eg. labor contracts, staffing levels, etc.) of the merging districts.

    I look at something like this: and wonder how something like this happens.

    My favorite is the “Painter” position with a comp package of $82,452/year.

    If you’re so inclined, you can contrast that report to D-26 here:

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