Evanston's city manager says the city could do Evanston Township's work for 40 percent less than what taxpayers now spend to have the township do it.
Asked by aldermen at a township board meeting Monday how much taxpayers could save if voters abolished the township, Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the savings could amount to $500,000 from the township's $1.26 million budget.
The aldermen, sitting as the township board, then voted 5-4 to have staff move forward with drafting language for a referendum to abolish the township that could be placed on the March election ballot.
Aldermen voting against the referendum said they needed more information to be confident that eliminating the township wouldn't mean eliminating services for the poor residents who rely on the township's general assistance program.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said there were too many unanswered questions about what will happen to talk about abolishing the township without having a detailed plan.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.
In response, Bobkiewicz proposed holding a special township board meeting on Nov. 29 or 30 to discuss details of how the services would be provided.
Opponents also voiced fears about the potential cost of litigation over the dissolution vote, given the confused status of state law on the subject.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he had "zero interest" in facing litigation for the amount of dollars at issue. But Wilson had estimated the potential annual savings from consolidation at a far smaller amount -- $85,000.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said personnel costs for the township are extremely high, and she agreed with the manager's estimate of a potential half-million a year in savings.
Burrus said Township Supervisor Pat Vance has for years resisted efforts by the town board to control township spending, leaving no alternative to achieve cost savings but to ask voters to abolish the township.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, noted that Vance, who left word she'd been called away by an emergency, failed to have any of her staff at the meeting to respond to trustees' questions.
Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson.
Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson, who like Vance would lose her elected post if the township were abolished, did attend the meeting.
She displayed a file box filled with what she said was paperwork from assessment appeals her office had recently helped taxpayers file and said the assessor's office provides "a much-needed service to the taxpayers of Evanston."
City, and township, attorney Grant Farrar proposed that in parallel with scheduling the referendum vote the city seek clarifying legislation from the general assembly to detail what would happen if voters approved the referendum.
But Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said winning approval for that legislation in Springfield "will take a great deal of time." And she questionned whether it would be the city's top lobbying prioirty over the next few months.
A final vote to put the referendum on the ballot would need to take place at the council's Dec. 12 meeting for the issue to appear on the March election ballot.