WOODSTOCK – The task force in charge of advancing an effort to halve the number of McHenry County townships through consolidation is meeting for the first time this week.
The five-member Township Consolidation Task Force, made up of three County Board members and two township officials on different sides of the debate, will convene at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the county Administration Building. County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, charged the group with devising a consolidation resolution for the board to consider, and present a proposed consolidation map.
A citizens’ group, backed by several local Republican officials, is seeking to put referendums to voters in the March primary to consolidate the number of county townships from 17 to eight.
Board member Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, is the chairwoman of the task force, which includes fellow board members Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, and Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock. Representing the townships are Nunda Township Trustee Michael Shorten – who is active in the group spearheading the consolidation effort – and Coral Township Supervisor Roger Naylor, who was nominated by the McHenry County Township Supervisors Association.
The consolidation question arose in March when the new group McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation announced it would ask the County Board for binding referendums so voters could decide.
State law allows a county board with townships to put a consolidation plan to voters. Voters in each proposed new township would have to approve their particular proposed consolidations.
Townships under Illinois law have three statutory functions – property assessment, road maintenance and general assistance for constituents in need – but many have added services, such as senior transportation, food banks and local programs. While supporters of townships call them vital and the most direct and responsive government taxpayers have, opponents call them unnecessary anachronisms rife with nepotism and patronage.
McHenry County’s political geography is almost certain to make the debate more complex. Townships closest to the Chicago area are more suburban and have little unincorporated land, and may be more amenable to consolidation, while those farther away are predominantly agricultural.
Illinois has far more units of local government than any other state at just less than 7,000, and more than 1,400 of those are townships.
Under Illinois law, the only way for a county to eliminate townships altogether is to take the more extreme action of eliminating the county board form of government and putting power in the hands of three elected county commissioners. The 17 Illinois counties under that model are all downstate, sparsely populated and almost entirely farmland.