CRYSTAL LAKE – There has been a lot of talk about the consolidation and abolishment of McHenry County townships and road districts.
Count Gov. Bruce Rauner as one of the movement’s biggest backers.
“What I stand for is local control,” the Republican told the Northwest Herald Editorial Board on Friday morning as he visited McHenry County to pitch why voters should elect him for a second term. “The people of McHenry should be empowered to make their own choices very easily.”
Rauner spoke to the Editorial Board for about 30 minutes, discussing property taxes in McHenry County, pensions – and why voters should be able to consolidate or dissolve local governments at the polls.
“If we find that we free up local residents to determine themselves what they want to consolidate, and which services they want to share, we will come to a good solution and over time will bring down our costs,” Rauner said. “What’s clear is Illinois is an outlier. ... We have way more units of government than any other state – and is it a coincidence that we have the highest property taxes in America? I think it’s probably not a coincidence.”
Rauner’s push for local control and consolidation comes at a time when the attack on townships is as intense as ever. Voters and homeowners tired of high property taxes and the state’s worsening economic climate have been looking to cut anything from anywhere they can.
Several bills have moved through Springfield to give voters the power to change what their government looks like.
On Jan. 1, House Bill 607 became a state law – a measure that allows township trustees to ask voters whether they want the road district abolished and its responsibilities given to the township supervisor. A majority vote would push that plan into motion, eliminating the road district at the end of the current highway commissioner’s term. McHenry Township officials voted Feb. 13 to put a referendum to voters on the November ballot.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, filed a bill in January that would give voters an opportunity to eliminate township government with a majority vote. The move would shift the services provided by townships to local municipalities and the county.
McSweeney shifted his focus to Algonquin Township, which recently has endured unruly in-house lawsuits, budget-busting legal fees and numerous corruption allegations leveled against the former leader of the highway department.
Rauner stands behind efforts such as McSweeney’s.
“Let’s empower local residents to figure it out,” Rauner said. “Let’s free up the people of Illinois and give power to the people to decide, and I’ll think we’ll get to a good solution.”