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Our View: More scrutiny for townships

Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

The second Tuesday in April every year is when townships have their annual meetings.

Financial reports will be reviewed, and elected officials will give their reports. Those who attend also get a chance to vote on various measures and to buttonhole their elected officials to ask questions.

Townships exist to maintain roads and bridges, assess property and provide general assistance to the poor. Some townships have expanded those roles.

The problem is, much of their activity occurs with little public scrutiny, and townships have become a haven for wasted tax dollars, patronage and nepotism.

Those who defend township government in Illinois say it’s needed because it’s the closest level of government everyday residents have access to. In reality, township government is antiquated and spends a lot of taxpayer money. Look at the $26,000 Grafton Township just spent on a forensic audit that revealed what we already knew: The township spent a lot of money on lawyers because of infighting between former Township Supervisor Linda Moore and the former trustees and the costly lawsuits that nearly bankrupted the township last year.

The state’s 1,433 townships – 17 of which are in McHenry County – add another layer of government to a state with far too many layers of government.

Townships do provide some essential services. All of those services can be absorbed by the county or municipalities at a much lower cost and with more efficiency.

That’s why we support efforts to eliminate township government, including letting voters decide whether to retain townships. Last month, residents voted to dissolve Evanston Township.

Townships largely operate in the dark. Their supporters are vocal when it comes to defending their existence.

Tonight’s meetings offer a chance for you to see township government at work and to provide a little more scrutiny on how your tax dollars are being spent.

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