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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Property tax appeal

    We have used the township office assistance to appeal our property taxes three times.  Each time our taxes have been lowered.  One time we tried the online method for appealing and were declined a reduction and without the township office assistance our property taxes increase every year.  If the township is abolished will the city provide this service as effectively as the township has at no charge?  Why is it that when something actually works in the people's favor in government – government finds the need to change it?

  2. Abolishing Township

    As the former Township Assessor, I have mixed emotions regarding the abolishment of the Township. I feel that the General Assistance could be merged into the City, however, the Assessor's Office is different.

    In our community we have many elderly taxpayers and it has been as asset for them to go to Main and Dodge and park and have many of their questions answered. The assessment process is a difficult process and with the rise in taxes, we need a local office to provide assistance.

    My budget was approximately $86,000 when I left office and now it has doubled.  Yes, this too could be a savings but from what I understand, a plan has not been developed if the Township is abolished.

  3. why the only city office that cares has to go????

    Property tax apeals are so important to some of us, and because that actually seems to be taking money away from goverment it has to be eliminated. This is clear!

    If the office space cost too much, the civic building, or any other city own building,  I am sure it can be restructured and the township office staff housed in there to save money on rent.

    BTW. Maybe Wally should start doing some walking not just eating…  

  4. “Free” Tax Advice

    If the main value of Township government to Evanston homeowners is the tax advice and assistance they provide, why not make it a self-supporting service?  If the Township manages to shave $1000 off your property taxes, isn't it fair to pay the Township fifteen per cent of your rebate for the service?  Oh, but then many people might stop using the service if it wasn't being paid for by the rest of us…

    1. Fifteen percent payment

      Fifteen percent payment from tax deduction would defeat the purpose of appealing an already overtaxed amount wouldn't it?

      1. Not 100 Per Cent

        Returning 100 per cent of whatever extra the Township Assessor managed to get you might defeat the purpose; paying a fifteen per cent fee would still net you an eighty-five percent savings.  Simply put: (a) don't appeal, pay the tax, owe nothing to the Township.  (b) Appeal on your own, gain some rebate on appeal, owe nothing to the Township.  (c) Use the Township as your intermediary, gain some rebate on appeal, pay a little back to keep the office open.  Math much?

  5. Voting these rascals out won’t be a waste of my time

    Let me get this straight.

    Mayor Tisdhal and Aldermen Wilson, Wynne, Holmes and Braithwaithe are OK with closing branch libraries, art centers, other recreation amenities and increasing city taxes, fees and fines but when it comes to abolishing a duplicative government agency to save a half million dollars just in the first year well, it's a waste of time and resources.

    Got that, folks?

    EVERY service that the Evanston Township Assessor's Office provides is offered by the county. I used the county's services to protest my taxes and was happy with the results.

    I am not a lawyer but there is no way in Sam Helen any court would allow the archaic and untested current township code to stand. It's probably unconstitutional for all Cook County townships to decide whether the Evanston Township Assessor's Office can be abolished or not. The Evanston Township is funded by taxpayers and therefore should be eliminated ONLY by taxpayers or elected officials of that Township.

    The mayor, aldermen, the city manager and the city attorney all warned that there could be litigation costs  for the Township dissolution. Wilson said he has "zero interest" in abolishing the Township if there are legal costs. Yet no numbers were thrown out. If the City Council approves the dissolution referendum and voters decide to abolish the Township what else needs to happen? This isn't an Act of Congress for Pete's sake.

    Unless someone decides to file a lawsuit.

    Hmmm, the Township supervisor and deputy assessor snubbed their noses at the Township Board by not coming to the meeting. A clue?

    This Township dissolution remains a hot political potato. It's about political control and power. The politicians want taxpayers to continue funding the duplicative Township Office so they can continue to use the agency as a tool to garner votes and support from those who milk the system.

    Meanwhile, my property taxes continue to increase as do fees and fines of every kind. The city manager is proposing a whopping 8 percent city tax increase! And abolishing a duplicate government agency to help balance the city budget isn't a top priority but a waste of time and resources for the mayor and some aldermen.

    It amazes me that our mayor and aldermen act as if those 100 or so people who use the general assistance program are helpless in finding the SAME services offered by non-profits, Cook County and the CITY!!!!! 

    City elections are not far off. Tick tock, tick, tock…


  6. No more township

    This is honestly the most intelligent idea I've heard come out of our city government in years. The township is redundant, period. The elderly have as much access to real estate lawyers and the Cook County Board of Review as those who are younger. Need help dialing the phone or getting online? Call a friend or a family member.

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