McHenry County consolidation bill passes committee, advances to House floor

McHenry County consolidation bill passes committee, advances to House floor

A House bill that would allow for the dissolution of township governments in McHenry County has passed committee and is set to receive a vote.

Tackling local government waste could soon become easier in one northern Illinois county struggling with high property tax bills.

The House Government Consolidation and Modernization Committee voted unanimously to approve House Bill 4637, which would give residents of McHenry County townships the ability to dissolve their townships altogether. It now awaits a full vote on the House floor.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, would allow a given township’s board of trustees in McHenry County to ask voters whether to dissolve their local township at the ballot box. There are currently 17 townships in the county, according to the Civic Federation.

However, the push for such a referendum need not arise from the township board. HB 4637 would also allow voters to petition the public on the subject of government consolidation themselves. By collecting a number of signatures that amounts to at least 5 percent of total votes cast in a previous election of similar consequence, residents could push the referendum question onto local ballots without the approval of the township.

In the event that a consolidation referendum succeeds, HB 4637 stipulates that property taxes levied within the boundaries of a dissolved township not exceed 90 percent of the original levy.

This provision should find warm reception among residents of McHenry County, where property taxes are so daunting that they may be depressing the region’s housing market. With median property tax bills nearing $6,000, McHenry County residents shoulder the fourth-highest property taxes in the state, according to 2011-2015 U.S. Census Bureau data.

Government consolidation has already found favor among McHenry County taxpayers – as evidenced by the success of McHenry County resident Bob Anderson. Running for a seat on the McHenry Township board in 2017, Anderson’s consolidation-centric campaign platform earned him the highest vote total of any candidate.

And now, McHenry Township residents will get to vote on whether to consolidate a local road district this November.

But this option shouldn’t be limited to McHenry Township. All local governments – not just those within McHenry County’s boundaries – ought to be subject to the cost-efficiency verdicts of the taxpayers they serve.

Illinois’ nearly 7,000 layers of government – more than any other state in the country – are often duplicative and overlapping, at times redundantly performing identical services and subsidizing exorbitant employee compensation. The cost of maintaining so many expensive local governments feeds Illinoisans’ outsized property tax burden.

High taxes are Illinoisans’ most frequently cited reason for wishing to leave the state. Fleeing past state lines has become a lurch toward relief for too many Illinoisans. Entrusting taxpayers with the ability to eliminate local government waste is one necessary step toward controlling public costs and easing their tax burden.

Lawmakers would be wise to allow HB 4637 to proceed to the governor’s desk. And they shouldn’t stop there.

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