It should be easier to consolidate governments in Illinois. That’s why we support a recently proposed bill backed by State Rep. David McSweeney that could give township boards in McHenry County the power to put a consolidation referendum on an election ballot.
The Illinois House Government Consolidation and Modernization Committee advanced the legislation on Monday.
HB 4637 is an amended version of HB 4244, co-sponsored by state Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake – the state representative who chairs the consolidation committee in Springfield – and state Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee. The bill adds three provisions – one that gives township boards power to put a referendum on the ballot with a majority vote, another that includes a built-in 10 percent reduction in property taxes on both the township and road district and the third, which calls for the elimination of a road district of any township responsible for less than 15 road miles.
If signed into law, HB 4637 would allow voters to force a referendum onto an election ballot with a petition signed by 5 percent of voters from a previous comparable election.
If 50 percent of voters support elimination at the polls, the township would be dissolved within 90 days after the election. All property, personnel, contractual obligations and liabilities inside the township then would transfer to McHenry County.
The bill would only apply to the 17 townships in McHenry County, according to a news release from McSweeney’s office. McHenry County’s other local units of government include 29 municipalities and numerous road districts, all to govern the county’s population of about 300,000 people, according to the release.
“Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government and it is time we did something to give voters the opportunity to do something to scale back government,” McSweeney said in a statement. “The multiple layers of often redundant local government are a bad deal for Illinois taxpayers and are a part of the reason why Illinois has the second worst property taxes in the nation. If we want to lower property taxes in Illinois, we have to give voters the ability to eliminate some of the layers of local government."
We agree. Getting rid of the many units of government in Illinois will help reduce the property tax burden on citizens – and this bill is a step in the right direction.
But it shouldn't stop with townships. Our elected officials should consider other ways to consolidate the thousands of units of local governments in the state.
We hope HB 4637 passes as it proceeds to the House floor for a vote, and that this type of consolidation is considered not only in McHenry County townships, but everywhere, in every form of government, in the state.