WOODSTOCK – A five-member task force will be assigned the duty of devising a plan by which township consolidation referendums can be placed on the 2016 ballot.
McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller announced his decision to put the mechanics of the effort in the hands of a task force at the start of Tuesday evening’s meeting. The group will have two goals – create a resolution for the County Board to vote on, 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.
The task force will consist of five members – three from the County Board, one local township supervisor, and a representative from McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation, which is spearheading the effort.
Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, said a task force will allow both sides in the debate – townships opposing consolidation and those supporting it – to have a say in the process.
“Ultimately for me, it was a decision to make certain that the petitioners and the townships had a seat at the table, and they don’t get to be at the table if it’s a McHenry County Board committee,” Gottemoller said Wednesday morning.
The consolidation group announced in late March that it would ask the County Board for binding referendums to consolidate townships. State law allows a county board with townships to put a consolidation plan to voters, as long as no proposed township’s boundary exceeds 126 square miles. 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 that taxpayers have, opponents call them unnecessary anachronisms that are rife with nepotism and patronage.
Likewise, supporters of consolidation allege that it will bring cost savings to taxpayers, although they have yet to substantiate whether savings will pan out, which in turn would depend to a certain extent on what townships are proposed to be lumped together.
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 state 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 agricultural.