WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will decide Tuesday which townships, if any at all, should be put before voters next year to consolidate.
Board members will vote on eight separate resolutions that, if approved and subsequently ratified by voters, would halve the number of county townships from 17 to eight, as an advocacy group wants.
But the tough questions that board members asked last month of the task force convened to develop the plan, combined with the fact that the task force could agree only on recommending two consolidations, make the odds long that board members would approve putting all eight proposed consolidations to voters.
Odds are likely that township officials and employees, who dominated the public-comment portion of the McHenry County Township Consolidation Task Force’s hearings, will do so once more before the County Board deliberates.
McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, convened the five-member task force in spring at the request of a group called McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation.
The group, led by a Nunda Township trustee and with the blessing of a number of higher-ups in the McHenry County Republican Party, asked for the referendums, which the group argues will save taxpayer money and improve accountability.
Each resolution approved Tuesday will put consolidation to the particular townships’ voters in the March 15 primary election – townships would consolidate where referendums pass, and stay separate where they fail.
Any consolidations approved by referendum would take effect after the 2017 township elections.
After three hearings through the summer and an open house, the task force could agree only on recommending merging Richmond and Burton townships in the county’s northeast corner, and another to merge Chemung and Dunham townships in the county’s northwest corner.
However, while the task force could not come to a consensus on the remainder of the consolidations on the proposed map, resolutions advancing them to voters also are on the County Board’s agenda.
The proposed map spares no township from consolidation. Resolutions before the County Board propose merging McHenry and Greenwood, Nunda and Dorr, Coral and Seneca, Marengo and Riley, and Algonquin and Grafton townships, plus a three-township merger of Alden, Hebron and Hartland townships.
Townships under Illinois law have three statutory functions: assess properties, maintain roads and provide assistance to constituents in need.
While supporters of township government in Illinois call it the most direct and responsive form that taxpayers have, critics call it an unnecessary anachronism rife with nepotism and patronage.
While supporters maintained during the task force’s hearings that their consolidation plan would result in a $4 million annual savings, task force Chairwoman Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, said at a Sept. 1 presentation of its findings that the total savings, if any, are completely dependent on the new officials of each township.
Another hurdle that County Board members will have to address Tuesday is the effect on taxpayers in a consolidating township with the lower tax rate.
Because the levies of two consolidating townships are added together and then divided among their total assessed value, the residents of the township with the lower tax rate most likely would see a tax increase.
The task force’s loudest voices for consolidation were County Board member Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, and Mike Shorten, a Nunda Township trustee and member of the consolidation group.
Coral Township Supervisor Roger Naylor repeatedly argued that supporters could not prove their claims that consolidation would result in savings and increased efficiencies.
After hearing all of the evidence, County Board member Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, also concluded that consolidation supporters had not made their case.
The pro-consolidation group conducted two polls that conclude McHenry County residents want the consolidation question on the ballot.
While polls concluded that support for consolidation by township is generally evenly split between supporters on one side and opponents and the undecided on the other, support for putting the referendums to voters to let them decide ranged between 60 percent and 90 percent in all but two townships.
If you go …
The McHenry County Board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.