The Illinois House Government Consolidation and Modernization Committee yesterday unanimously advanced State Rep. David McSweeney-backed legislation to make it easier for voters in McHenry County to eliminate townships.
House Bill 4367 applies only to the 17 townships in McHenry County and provides a referendum process for voters to dissolve the townships. It allows voters to force a ballot question to abolish a township as long as voters submit a petition with at least 5 percent of the number of voters who voted in a previous comparable election. Additionally, the trustees of any township in McHenry County may submit a proposition to dissolve the township to the voters. In both cases, if a simple majority of voters agree to abolish a township, the township would be dissolved within 90 days after the election. The duties and assets of the township government would then be absorbed by McHenry County or municipal governments. Residents of the dissolved township would see a property tax cut as any taxes levied by the County for that area could not exceed more than 90% of the taxes levied by the former township government.
In addition to the 17 township governments, McHenry County has many other units of local government, including 29 municipalities and numerous road districts, all to govern a population of roughly 300,000 citizens. The majority of these units have the ability to levy taxes. HB 4637 further works to eliminate excessive government by requiring townships in Lake and McHenry Counties to dissolve any road districts that maintain less than 15 miles.
“Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government and it is time we did something to give voters the opportunity to do something to scale back government,” McSweeney said. “The multiple layers of often redundant local government are a bad deal for Illinois taxpayers and are a part of the reason why Illinois has the second worst property taxes in the nation. If we want to lower property taxes in Illinois, we have to give voters the ability to eliminate some of the layers of local government."
The legislation follows on the heels of the problems that have been exposed in Algonquin Township, the largest township by population in McHenry County. The Township has paid nearly half a million dollars in legal fees thus far due to ongoing disputes. It's been reported that a former Algonquin Township official is the subject of an investigation about improper spending. Legal fees continue to mount.
“Algonquin Township is a solid example of bad government and a prime example of why this kind of legislation is necessary,” McSweeney continued. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be burdened with paying for bad or unnecessary layers of government and deserve an avenue to address their concerns with township government.”