Springfield asks residents to remove duplicate layer of government
The Springfield City Council voted to add an advisory referendum to the April ballot asking voters whether to eliminate the local township and let the city handle its duties.
Springfield voters in April will be asked whether the local township should be eliminated, with the city taking over its limited duties.
The Springfield City Council voted 6-4 to add the advisory question for residents. Ald. Joe McMenamin, 7th Ward, said the township and city provide similar services that should be consolidated.
“It eliminates duplication of government, and we don’t need double layers of government,” McMenamin said. “We’ve got, in general, way too many units of government in Illinois, and if we can eliminate some of those units, with a positive result for the taxpayers, a lesser tax burden and more efficiency we should do it.”
Illinois leads the nation in local government units by a wide margin with 6,032, which doesn’t include about 850 school districts. Texas is No. 2, serving 16 million more people with 1,762 fewer government units. In 40 states, residents live under no more than two layers of local government. In Illinois, 61% of homeowners live under three, some under 16.
Joe Aiello, who is supervisor of Capital Township within Springfield, said the city would fall short in serving residents.
“We provide general rental assistance, utility assistance, Workfare assistance, we repurpose individuals with job skills,” Aiello said. “The city doesn’t provide those types of services. I think some of our most vulnerable clients, some of our most famous citizens in this community, are going to be not looked at and appreciated the way they should be.”
Townships are tasked with assessing properties, something Aiello said the city isn’t capable of.
There are 17 townships in Illinois that share exact boundaries with a municipality, including Capital Township. Three others have been eliminated.
Evanston voters in 2014 consolidated their township with the city. Both shared boundaries and leaders but were two different taxing bodies. After the first year of consolidation, the plan saved taxpayers nearly $800,000.
Belleville also shared boundaries and leaders with its township. The township was eliminated in 2017, a move expected to save taxpayers $260,000 per year. Godfrey voters eliminated their township in 2018, expecting to save $89,000 per year.
The Springfield question is advisory, so voters don’t have a final say during the April 4 election. But consolidating townships with either municipal or county governments is an idea state lawmakers have pondered and should embrace as a way to cut down on the government duplication that helps drive Illinois property taxes to No. 2 in the nation.