State task force hears Evanston's consolidation story

Alderman Jane Grover speaking at task force meeting in Urbana.

A state task force on government consolidation heard the story Monday of how Evanston voters managed to eliminate township government here and have the city take over its tasks.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, testifying before the task force at a meeting in Urbana described how the city went about assuming the township's responsibilities in the spring of 2014 after voters approved township dissolution in a referendum by a nearly two-to-one margin.

The path to consolidation had proved complex, involving an advisory referendum, passage of special state legislation revising the rules for township dissolution, and then the binding vote.

It's only the third time in Illinois history, and the first time since 1932, that voters had decided to dissolve a township. And the process here was simplified by the facts that city aldermen also served as the township's trustees and that the city and township shared the same geographic boundaries.

Grover described how responsibility for the township's general assistance and emergency aid programs were transferred to the city's Health and Human Services Department and responsibility for advising residents about property tax assessment appeals was transferred to the city's Administrative Services Department. 

Dissolution had been a controversial issue in the city -- with supporters of the township -- many of them recipients of general assistance funding -- fearing they would lose out.

But the city so far has managed to dramatically increase the number of residents aided by the programs, while also stepping up efforts to move many into gainful employment.

And city officials claim to have dramatically reduced administrative overhead costs as well.

Illinois has far more units of local government than any other state -- a total of nearly 7,000 -- about 1,800 more than its nearest competitor for that title.

The task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, also heard from Bryan Smith, head of the organization representing township government officials across the state, and Bob Anderson, leader of a citizens group pushing for township consolidation in McHenry County.

The task force, appointed by Gov. Rauner in February, is scheduled to report its findings to the governor and legislature by the end of the year.

Sanguinetti says the high number of local government units in the state encourages corruption and results in Illinois residents paying some of the highest local government tax rates in the nation.

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Comments

Sanguinetti hit the nail on

Sanguinetti hit the nail on the head. We can only hope that many other government offices can be eliminated. Ones that come to mind are:

  • State Comptroller consolidated into State Treasurer office with a reduction in total staff.y
  • With all do respect to Ms. Sanguinetti, Lt. Governor can be eliminated. Next in line to replace a vacancy in the Govenor position can be the State Attorney General.
  • The state and counties in Illinois have a number of paid boards and commissions that are appointed and only meet a few times a year. Mike Madigan has over 50 people working for him. Some are part time but put in enough time to qualify for a pension.