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McHenry Township committee efforting independent look at financial impact of township elimination

Committee efforting independent study to examine costs of township elimination

The answer to a recurring question regarding the impact of township abolishment may be on its way.

A McHenry Township committee wants to hire an independent agency to determine the financial impact the elimination of the township would have on taxpayers via a cost study analysis.

The committee – aptly named the McHenry Township Cost Study Analysis Committee – is composed of Craig Adams, the township supervisor; Bob Anderson, a township board trustee who has been fighting to abolish townships for decades; Jim Condon, the township road district’s highway commissioner; and John Macrito, a township resident and activist who has been fighting to save the township and its services.

The committee met Monday morning to begin discussion on the process. Adams plans to put together a request for services and the committee will meet again next Monday to review the document.

Once proposals come back, the committee plans to interview the candidates before making a recommendation to the township board.

Timing could present a problem, with the question of township elimination to be on the March 17 primary ballot.

“It would certainly be a goal of mine to get this done before the election,” Anderson said.

The priority should be finding a neutral party to complete the study, such as an out-of-state university, Condon said.

“I think any institution in Illinois would have a bias,” he said. “It’s obviously a very hot political issue and we need to do everything we can to take that part out of it.”

Condon initially wasn’t on the committee but requested to join Monday morning.

“It’s completely inappropriate to not include the road district as part of the committee,” Condon said. “Our budget is actually larger than the township’s budget. To not involve the road district seems ludicrous to me.”

Condon also is vying to have an official vote when the township board decides which agency should complete the study.

“It’s politicized already. Do not think anything else,” Condon said. “We have three board members who vote together and, listening to our conversation here, I don’t have faith that it will be neutral. Let’s come up with a fair way to do things.”

Condon was referring to Trustees Anderson, Steve Verr and Mike Rakestraw. Anderson said he wouldn’t support Condon’s request to cast a vote.

“I think they would be looking for the most independent study,” Anderson said. “[The road district] doesn’t have a board and now you want to be part of the township board.”

Adams said he would check with the township attorney to find out whether a vote from Condon would even be legal, which would put an end to the debate.

“We will put some ideas together and we can meet next week and decide,” Adams said. “Hopefully, the following week I can get the package out and get some responses.”

Adams said he agreed that it would be ideal for the study to be complete before the March primary election, but he didn’t want to cut corners to get a quick outcome.

“I think [the study] needs to be done anyway,” he said.

A group of residents successfully petitioned to get the question on the March ballot, but don’t want to see the township go. The residents came up with the plan after Anderson revealed his intentions to place the question on the presidential election ballot in November, when more people are likely to vote.

The question – which asks whether the township and its road district should be dissolved as of June 21, 2020 – will appear on the March primary election ballot. If voters decide the answer to the question is “yes,” the entities’ property, assets, personnel, obligations and liabilities will be transferred to McHenry County.

McHenry County in 1994 completed its own analysis to figure out how the dissolution of its 17 townships would impact the budget.

The study revealed that the county would have to spend an additional $9 million to take over the township responsibilities, and would face about $6 million in startup costs. Townships collectively charged taxpayers about $11 million at the time, according to the study.

The study was completed after Anderson started a petition to place the question of township elimination on the November ballot. The question ultimately went on the ballot, where it was voted down by a 3-to-1 margin.

Anderson at the time said the county didn’t account for enough revenue and the assets it would receive after taking on township equipment and facilities.

The committee plans to meet at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 14 at the township building, 3703 N. Richmond Road.

McHenry Township’s board of trustees is scheduled to meet 7 p.m. Thursday, at the township building.

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