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Aledo Times Record - Aledo, IL
  • Are Townships needed with so many other local governments in Illinois?

  • Evanston’s March 18, 2014 referendum approving the consolidation of the Township of Evanston into the City of Evanston has been suggested as a possible precedent for reducing Illinois’ excessively large number of local governments in a new report just issued by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies.
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  •  Evanston’s March 18, 2014 referendum approving the consolidation of the Township of Evanston into the City of Evanston has been suggested as a possible precedent for reducing Illinois’ excessively large number of local governments in a new report just issued by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies.
    Entitled “Too Many Governments in Illinois? What is the Impact on Townships?” the report, authored by Shannon N. Sohl and James M. Banovetz, estimated that the Evanston consolidation will save the city’s taxpayers over $500,000 per year.
    The report noted that, as of 2013, Illinois had 35 percent more units of local government than Texas, the state with the second largest number, and 165 percent more units of local government than the average number of governments in the six states bordering Illinois.
    Township governments have long been considered prime targets by reformers seeking to reduce the number of governments in Illinois. Their primary functions—road and bridge construction and maintenance; general assistance to people in financial trouble; property assessment for tax purposes; and special programs for seniors, veterans, and youth—are all services that can readily be performed by other governments and are performed by county governments in the 17 Illinois counties which have no townships.
    Of Illinois’ 6,963 units of local government, over 40 percent are townships or their affiliated road and bridge districts. These governments levied approximately $660 million in 2011 property taxes, almost half of which was used to support those governments’ administrative operations.
    Particularly targeted in the report for possible consolidation with overlapping city or village governments were the 16 other Illinois townships which serve the same, or close to the same, voters and geographic areas as their overlapping city or village governments. After reviewing the financial status of the townships with coterminous city or village governments, the report concluded that such townships:
    Can be expensive to operate, require large reserves given their lack of revenue diversification, lack consistency in general operating indicators, and have different practices for accounting and reporting fiscal results (two key accountability mechanisms).
    The report summarized arguments for maintaining and eliminating township governments, noting that the original purpose of township governments has been rendered obsolete by modern communication and transportation capabilities; the financial, political, and service implications of such a move; and the loss of jobs that would result.
    Township dissolution would require: (1) statutory provisions establishing the methodology for making the transfer of township functions possible, and (2) voter support. Evanston’s successful consolidation was achieved only after city officials secured needed changes and updates in statutes governing the transfer of township functions. This, in turn, will facilitate future efforts at township consolidation or dissolution.
    The long‐term result of Evanston’s success, the report concluded, “might be a simplification of Illinois’ local government system which, in turn, might very well strengthen the democratic nature of local government in Illinois.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Read the full profile here
    http://www.cgs.niu.edu/publications/policy_profiles/policy_v13n1.pdf.To read more Policy Profiles, visit the CGS Publications Page http://www.cgs.niu.edu/publications/index.shtml.

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