Illinois voters could eliminate townships that share city limits under bill
Illinois townships often spend more on administration than services when they cover the same territory as a local municipality. One bill would make it easier for voters to change that.
Communities with both city and township government layered atop one another could have an easier time eliminating redundant local government under a new bill in the Illinois House.
House Bill 2525, sponsored by Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, allows a township board or residents of a township to put a question on the ballot to eliminate the township when it shares or substantially shares boundaries with a municipality.
If voters agree to eliminate these “coterminous” townships, township duties are absorbed by the municipality.
The bill removes current restrictions on which coterminous townships are eligible for voter elimination. Currently the townships must share officers with the city or be in Cook or St. Clair counties. The bill would allow a ballot question if either the township board voted for one, or if a petition drive succeeds in gathering 10 percent of the township voters’ signatures.
Illinois townships have three main functions: administer general welfare assistance, evaluate property for taxes, and maintain roads and bridges. When the township shares boundaries with a city, it often has no roads to maintain and sometimes has no property to evaluate when the county fulfills that job.
Voters in Belleville, Illinois, fought for years to eliminate Belleville Township and needed a state law passed to let them do so. The move quickly saved taxpayers $260,000 a year by eliminating a layer of government that’s sole duty was to hand out aid to about 40 needy residents a month. It cost taxpayers more than $3 in overhead for every $1 the township distributed.
Taxpayers in Evanston saved over $780,000 when they consolidated their coterminous township.
Alton Township in Madison County shares boundaries with the city of Alton. The township spent less on services than on administration and overhead.
Illinois has nearly 7,000 layers of local government, more than any other state. Illinois is well ahead of second-place Texas with its 5,100 local governments, but Texas is bigger and has more people. Florida has about 6 million more people than Illinois and exists without any townships.
Each unit of local government in Illinois serves about 1,500 people, driving up property taxes without necessarily improving public service.
HB 2525 could help voters eliminate redundant layers of government that have outlived their public benefit and absorb too many tax dollars. If voters cannot tell the difference between two layers of government when outlined on a map, maybe the community can live without one of them.