Voters want Springfield to shed a little government

Voters want Springfield to shed a little government

Voters said they don’t need a township on top of Springfield city government, but unless Sangamon County leaders act there will be no tax savings.

On Nov. 6, Sangamon County voters overwhelmingly approved consolidating Capital Township with the county.

In April, Springfield city voters will be asked the same question.

But neither of their votes will eliminate a layer of government that largely shares Springfield’s city limits, performs limited public service and collected $2 million in property taxes in 2017. Sangamon County leaders need to act to eliminate Capital Township.

The ballot question Tuesday read, “Shall Capital Township pursue a full merger with Sangamon County?”

The township’s borders are virtually identical to that of the city of Springfield. By eliminating an unnecessary layer of government, consolidating Capital Township could generate taxpayer savings. The proposal appeared as an advisory referendum, meaning that while it required a smaller number of signatures to land a spot on the ballot, the result is nonbinding.

The advisory question precedes a similar referendum set to appear on April 2019 ballots in the city of Springfield, asking voters whether to consolidate the Capital Township with the city. Because neither question is binding, both proposals may pass independently.

If county leaders act on the consolidation measure, Sangamon County will absorb the township’s three primary duties: property assessment, road maintenance and general aid. The county treasurer already serves as Capital Township supervisor and collector.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, local government consolidation is often an uphill climb. As it stands now, to get a binding consolidation referendum onto a ballot, voters need a petition signed by 10 percent of registered voters from each township in the county. It’s an unnecessarily burdensome task – but a worthwhile one, especially for overburdened taxpayers.

For example, the typical Springfield homeowner’s property tax dollars flow to 10 different units of local government. The property tax bill for a house in Springfield selling at about $127,000 – near the median home value – was more than $2,600 in 2017. While the amount flowing to Capital Township is relatively low, 1.1 percent of the bill, those savings would bring welcome change to a tax bill that’s far too high.

Unnecessary and duplicative layers of local government are significant driver of Illinoisans’ high property tax bills. By dissolving Capital Township, taxpayers would set an important precedent for consolidating Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government – the highest count of any state in the nation – and creating a path toward relief.

In the meantime, there are a number of reforms state lawmakers can pursue to bring down Sangamon County residents’ high property tax bills.

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