Gov. Pat Quinn today signed a bill that will let the Evanston City Council place a binding referendum on the ballot asking voters whether they want to abolish Evanston Township.

The new law, Public Act 098-0127, was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston. Its adoption follows an advisory referendum held last year in which Evanston voters by a 2-1 margin said they favored pursuing the idea of abolishing the township.

The legislation was intended to resolve a conflict in existing statutes, which left it unclear whether a vote within Evanston would be effective in dissolving the township, or whether all voters in Cook County would have to be asked to decide the issue.

Under the new law, if the township were abolished, its responsibilities — including for provision of general assistance payments to the indigent and advice on appealing property assessments — would be taken over by the city.

Evanston Township and the City of Evanston have identical boundaries and the city’s aldermen and mayor serve as the township board and the city clerk also serves as the township clerk.

But the township currently has two part-time elected officials of its own — the township supervisor and township assessor.

Evanston’s city manager has suggested that having the city provide township services could save taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars a year.

Some of those savings are already scheduled to be realized this fall when township offices are moved from rented offices at Main Street and Dodge Avenue to the Civic Center.

The idea of abolishing the township has drawn criticism from the township’s elected officials and some township employees and general assistance recipients.

After a previous bill that could have applied to other coterminous townships in the state was defeated based on opposition from the state township officials organization, the bill Quinn signed today was carefully drafted to apply only to Evanston Township.

Related stories on township abolition.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Township

    Township property tax services are not required by State law.  Storing property transfer declarations and forwarding permits to the County for valuation are the only required duties of the Evanston Township Assessor's office. 

  2. What was the initial purpose of having townships?

    Is there a history buff out there who could explain why we have townships?  We have villages, cities, counties and 50 states.  What was the purpose of townships?

    1. Townships are from another era

      Townships  were established by the state in 1850 to provide basic municipal services.  They were platted according to one of the earliest  US laws –the Land Ordinance of 1785 which required that land be surveyed in 6-square mile incriments (If you look at an Illinois township map you will see that most of them are nearly square).

      States used the townships to allow localities to levy taxes for schools (hence, ETHS), roads and other basic stuff.  As more people moved to the state after the Civil War there were more demands for different government services so the state allowed cities, villiages, etc. to be established with differing powers and revenue-raising mechanisms.

      Kudos to Dan Biss–for sponsoring the legislation to get rid of these things–and kudos to GOv. Quinn for signing the bill.

      Townships are irrelevant in this day and age.

    2. Purpose…

      Townships have existed in what is now the United States since, I believe, the 1600s.  I think they were generally considered a quasi-arm of county government.  Back in the day when it may have taken hours to get to the county seat by horse and buggy, township government served as a great convenience. 

      Here's a little more background, but I find some of the writing on Illinois townships to be incorrect:

  3. A no brainer

    This should have been done years ago.  The only thing keeping the Township alive was politicians and hanger-ons wanting their fiefdom.


    Now, lets figure out other government bodies we can eliminate. .

    Despite being the 5th most populace state, Illinois has the most local governments, almost 7000, in the United States and it also has over 3,000 special government districts, more than any other state, over 3000 thousands. School districts in Illinois are smaller than school districts in most other states. Nobody seems to know how many special paid commisioners the state and local governments have. Nobody knows why we have a school district for both the high school and grade schools. Why does Evanston give money to private bussinesses, such as Trader Joes and bars on Howard Street.There are many other examples of wasted taxpayer dollars than townships. Getting rid of townships should only be the begining to cleaning up Illinois.

     Two years ago, the state added another 1,000 government bodies by making library boards as a taxing body. This added nothing to libraries but added additional expense to taxpayers.

    1. Evanston Township

      This law only covers EVANSTON TOWNSHIP!  No other Township in Illinois is affected by this legislation.  I strongly suggest everyone check their recent property tax bill closely.  General Assistance is required by State law and will have to be funded by the City of Evanston through an eventual increase in your local property taxes.  Townships operate under propety tax caps and the City is a "home rule" government entity with no property tax cap.  This financial responsibility falls on the City if Township elimination is passed by referendum in next Marchs' primary election.

      The Town of Evanston portion of the property tax bill is the smallest amount you pay (tied with the NS mosquito abatement district) and if eliminated by referendum will be the only savings seen by taxpayers. There of course is the new Evanston library district property taxes on your 2012 second installment you just paid.  This property tax cost increase far exceeds any perceived savings by eliminating the Town of Evanston line on your current bill.

      Evanston Township owes no money, operates a balanced budget each year, gives money to social service agencies and the City for their social programs and has a cash surplus in the bank. The Township also has no pension debt because it pays as it goes through IMRF.  However, the City of Evanston borrowed 15 million just for this years' budget deficit spending and owes almost 90 million of debt.  This is in addition to the severely underfunded police and fire pensions which can be seen on your first installment of 2012 due back in March of this year.

      In conclusion, the savings of Evanston Township elimination are minimal at best and will positively add to the cost of the City portion of your property taxes well into the near future.

    2. Start cutting here….

      Chicago has one alderman per 80,000,  Evanston one for each 9,000.

      Good place to start cutting.  We save from both their salary, office expense and staff but all the projects the 'extra' aldermen try to push through so they can get elected again or ….

      1. Evanston Council was halved 22 years ago

        22 years ago, a group of fed up Evanston taxpayers organized (Evanston Tax Accountability Committee) and got a referendum on the ballot to cut the City Council by half.

        It worked!!! Voters approved to pare the City Council down to 9 aldermen from 18!

        Alderman Ann Rainey at the time opposed it, claiming that the only people who would run for Evanston aldermen would be “women who don`t have to work and retired people. Nobody with a real job.“ Word to Rainey – there are three men on the Council and most of the women have "real jobs."  Anyone for term limits?

        That same year, Evanston voters rejected school tax hikes thanks to the organized anti-tax activists.

        Sure wish this generation was just as organized and active against all the tax hikes, water rate hikes, more government spending, waste, fraud and corruption.  Why is Evanston High School the only school in District 202? 

        You get what you vote for.

        Read more here.

      1. 675

        There are 675 public library districts in Illinois that have the power to tax. If you count those that have more than 1 physical library, there are about 825.

  5. Hooray!

    Thank you Dan Biss and Pat Quinn for having some sense! Hopefully we can finally do away with this archaic and wasteful folly.

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