The City of Evanston’s Corporation Counsel says voters in the city could choose by referendum to abolish Evanston Township and have the city take over its functions.

However, Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar says, the situation is muddied by the state legislature’s adoption of a statute that he says conflicts with the state constitution on the process to be followed.

Farrar says the state constitution provides that voters in a single township can vote to dissolve it.

He says the state election code provides that the township board — which consists of Evanston’s aldermen and mayor — could initiate the referendum by resolution.

Failing that, voters could get the issue on the ballot by filing petitions containing signatures of at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the city.

However the township code adopted by the state legislature only discusses dissolution of township organization countywide and requires approval by a majority of the voters in three-quarters of the townships for the measure to carry.

Farrar says a circuit court judge in DuPage county has ruled the super-majority provision unconstitutional. That case did not address the issue of dissolving a single township, rather than all townships countywide.

But, Farrar says that based on general principles of statutory construction, the constitutional provision should prevail when it is in conflict with the statute.

The township board, after months of sometimes heated debate, is scheduled tonight to adopt a budget for the final six months of the township’s fiscal year.

The township’s $1.26 million annual spending is tiny compared to what the city itself spends, but aldermen have long criticized the township as being inefficient in its spending of taxpayer money.

The board tonight is also scheduled to receive a report from Administrative Services Director JoEllen Earl that says the township could trim its spending by nearly seven percent simply by consolidating payroll and data processing and other services with the city.

The township could reduce its spending by another 6 percent by moving its offices from the current rented space at Dodge Avenue and Main Street into the Civic Center. But the township supervisor and township assessor so far have been reluctant to make that move.

The township’s main function is to provide general assistance to indigent residents who don’t qualify for other social services programs. Farrar says it appears that the city could take on that responsibility, but that further research is needed to work out the details of how best to accomplish it.

Related story

Suffredin calls for abolishing township

Related documents

Farrar’s memo (.pdf)

Earl’s memo (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Why did the Council give the Township a budget hike?

    In less than one year after the City Council voted to increase the Evanston Township Assessor's budget 80 percent, it is now considering the first steps in abolishing the Evanston Township Assessor's Office. Go figure.

    Did the City Council have a sister souljah moment? Doubt it considering that the Council seems pleased to give the Evanston Township deputy assessor a pay raise in this year's budget.

    I'm still wondering what the Human Service Committee is doing with Evanston Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson's pension application.

    The pension mess is the primary reason why Evanston and the State of Illinois is deep in debt. The City Council last year raised taxes to meet unpaid pension obligations.

    The Evanston Township Assessor's Office should have been eliminated back in the height of the recession in 2008 – the same year the City Council gave itself a 20 percent pay raise.

    I'd be interested to see if voters will get a chance to eliminate the Evanston Township Assessor's Office. If not, the petition idea seem appropriate.

    Maybe voters can pass along a collective petition to eliminate the Township Assessor's Office and oust some aldermen along the way. 

    Then we can get some aldermen in there that will once and for all eliminate any chance of part-time aldermen and city employees from getting a pension. A City Council pay decrease might be in order as well.

    Just sayin.

  2. opinions

    That was the same attorney who told the Township "trustee's" that they had to vote on the entire two budgets The Town Fund (Supervisor and Assessor) and General Assistance Fund on June 27th and then on the Sept. 19 hand out package for the Township meeting told these same "trustees" by memo that they could have passed just the Town Fund or even just the Assessor's budget portion of the town fund.  This was a direct question asked of the attorney by a "trustee" during the June 27th Township meeting.  The attorney replied incorrectly.. "No the entire budget must be dealt with now…."  This incorrect response lead to vote passing only a six month budget 4/01 through 09/30..  What was that six month budget was decided way after the vote took place.  Not one Township "trustee" or elected Township official new what was passed on the June 27th meeting.  Weeks of inquiries by the Township Assessor as to what was passed and where was the signed order for this budget went unanswered.

    This annual Township budget debacle is because too much time is spent on trying how to get rid of the Township and not enough time and effort used to understand and pass the fiscal year budget of the Town Fund and General Assistance Fund.  The fiscal year for the Township starts April 1st!  Why can't this budget get resolved before the statutory deadline approaches each year?  Why force the "trustees" to make decisions under duress each year?  Why does a budget that represented only .68% of the total (2009) property taxes paid in 2010 get so much debate? 

    The Township of Evanston has a surplus.  The Township budget is balanced.  The Township pays into its Pension Fund the required total for their employees each year,  The Township didn't raise its levy this year again. Did all the other government entities you pay taxes to do the same?    

    In conclusion, I have to really wonder if eliminating the Township will save any money for the taxpayers of Evanston.  The statutory requirements of the Township must be met.  Do we want these services rolled into another governmental entity that already has extreme financial difficulties performing the services that they're already responsible for?   Nick Pavletic

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