Peru City Council votes to put township consolidation question on November ballot

Peru City Council votes to put township consolidation question on November ballot

Taxpayers in Peru, Ill. will have the option this November to dissolve their township, which could eliminate waste and ease their tax burden.

Peru, Ill., residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on local government consolidation in November.

The Peru City Council July 25 approved adding a question to the November ballot asking Peru residents if they would like the city to consider dissolving its township and consolidating the services with the city of Peru.

Under Illinois law, a township’s main purpose is to do three things:

  1. Administer the general assistance program
  2. Maintain roads and bridges that another unit of government does not have jurisdiction over
  3. Assess property within the township

For fiscal year 2015, Peru township collected over $390,000 in property taxes from its residents and over $92,000 from other sources, giving the township $482,000 in total revenues. Of that, $189,000 – almost 40 percent – went toward its employees’ salaries, including four trustees, a supervisor, a clerk, an assessor and a highway commissioner. Only $26,000 went toward the general assistance program. The remaining $267,000 went toward road maintenance and administrative expenses.

Townships are often an unnecessary layer of government – they frequently do not perform services distinct from their overlapping municipalities and counties. Other units of government can perform townships’ services by combining the general assistance program with other city programs, or expanding the territory the county or city maintains to cover roads the township maintains.

The latter might be the case in Peru. The Peru Township covers 18 square miles, a majority of which is also covered by the City of Peru. There are, however, six miles of road the city does not cover that LaSalle County could take over if the township were dissolved.

Having the option to vote on this issue is a win for Peru taxpayers. Dissolving the Peru Township would be one less layer of government for taxpayers to fund. In fact, Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government – more than any other state in the nation – and each of these units of government adds to Illinoisans’ high tax burden through government-worker salary and pension benefits, and other general administrative costs such as purchasing office supplies and renting or maintaining office space. The average Illinois resident lives under six layers of government, which could include a county, township, city and any other special taxing districts, such as a library district or a park district.

Next steps

The upcoming November ballot’s referendum will be nonbinding, which means it is simply to gauge the public’s interest in a potential consolidation. If a majority votes in favor of consolidation, then the city will look into how significant the cost savings might be if the municipality pursues consolidation.

Consolidating or dissolving a government is no easy task. If the city’s research proves consolidation would be cost effective, then a binding referendum question will have to be added to the ballot of the next proceeding election. Should that referendum pass, the Illinois General Assembly would then have to pass legislation allowing for the consolidation, similar to Belleville Township’s consolidation. Unfortunately, it could take many years before Peru residents see any meaningful reform.

Regardless of how the referendum unfolds, the Peru City Council’s decision to include taxpayers in discussions of government costs is a win. Other local governments should follow the council’s lead, and take the initiative to root out government waste and redundancy.

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