Township Reform Pops Up on Illinois Lawmakers’ Radar

Illinois, 1875 -- 25 years after the first township was formed

Townships are feeling the heat.

Increasingly, these often-obscure units of local government—which were spawned in Illinois during the 19th century—are coming under fire from critics and lawmakers who dispute the need for having 1,435 taxpayer-supported townships in 85 of 102 state counties.

A buzz is building against townships in the current General Assembly, so look for some streamlining legislation to come down the pike this spring session.

The township critics’ objective is to pass a law that will pave a way toward getting rid of unnecessary townships or, at least, vastly reduce their number.

While not mentioning townships by name in his inaugural speech this January (see video), Senate President John Cullerton asserted that the time has come to “re-examine the need for so many units of local government that result in higher taxes and less efficiency.”

The BGA agrees that township government is ripe for reform.

In late 2009, a BGA investigation with ABC7 News uncovered startling inefficiencies and redundancies within the township governments.

The BGA, which favors streamlining Illinois government and making sure taxpayers get value from every tax dollar, continues to focus on township reform and is a resource for advocates in Springfield looking to appropriately curtail this local level of government.

There’s plenty to examine.

For starters, the boundary lines of townships are based on geography, not necessity or population centers. The lines, originally drawn to be 36 square-mile areas, were set long before cities expanded to include the areas they now occupy.

As a result, a single township can contain numerous cities whose own boundaries straddle both township and county lines.

Consider Northfield Township in Cook County.

That township contains parts of seven municipalities, each with their own governing bodies: Glenview, Northfield, Prospect Heights, Northbrook, Wilmette, Glencoe and Deerfield, according to the office of the Cook County Clerk.

Moreover, townships are permitted, but not required under law, to provide a hodge-podge of various services to residents.

The services a township may provide range from senior and public health services, to prohibiting animals from running at large, to providing fire protection. They can also purchase land and maintain roads in unincorporated areas.

As a result, townships levy taxes on their residents to pay for such services—services that critics say could often be efficiently absorbed into the county operations, which would likely make delivery more practical and less costly to taxpayers.

Redundancies don’t necessarily end there.

There’s already a county assessor, so why have separate township assessors or assistant assessors?
Roads get plowed and maintained by overlapping municipalities or the state, so why do the township road crews do it too?
And general aid and assistance to the poor is handled by a plethora of government-supported human services agencies, so what exclusive support role do townships perform?

What’s more, township taxes also pay for the salaries and pensions of the township’s elected officials.

Elected officials in township government usually include a supervisor, highway commissioner, assessor, and four trustees who make up the township board. Townships also employ clerks, deputy level commissioners and assessor, and other support staff.

That is, at least, seven salaried elected officers per township, plus salaried department staff.

Which begs the question: Is the township delivering services that a city, county or state could not?

For many residents the answer is “No.”

Yet, even if outraged voters wanted to rid themselves of an unwanted township, the task would prove to be almost impossible.

Under state law, voters cannot vote to dissolve their own township. In order for a township to end, or “discontinue,” every other township in that county must also vote via referendum to discontinue it.

That means even in townships where residents want to eliminate the organization, they must act collectively by getting 10 percent of voters in every township in the county to sign a petition to get the issue on the ballot as a referendum in the next general election.

This is an unreasonable standard.

In cases where residents of townships have seen first-hand the waste, inefficiency, and redundancy of township government, they should be able to use an easier referendum vote to purge all or parts of townships that are no longer adding value.

There are Township Supervisors, like Sam Yingling of Avon Township in Lake County, who want reform. In fact, Yingling is a rare township employee—he’s actually advocating for the elimination of his own job by calling on state lawmakers to make it easier for a township to discontinue itself.

Even with such reform, communities that are being well served by their township government can choose to keep it. But those who wish to discontinue their township and streamline the layers of government in Illinois can also do so.

Altering the township landscape in Illinois won’t be an easy task.

Advocates for townships argue these government entities provide an important link between citizens and their government, particularly in rural areas where city and county governments may not be as easily accessible to residents.

In Illinois, the first township was formed in 1850. The past 161 years have changed the make up of Illinois; population centers have formed and the cities of Illinois have sprung up without regard to township lines.

It’s time for a closer look.

The people have a right to determine if a township still serves an important purpose or if it is a superfluous and costly relic of the past.


Filed under Streamlining Government, Townships

41 responses to “Township Reform Pops Up on Illinois Lawmakers’ Radar

  1. Angie Wallberg

    I live in unincorporated Lake Villa Township, and would hate to see my Township dissolved! I can understand that some pretty much consist of incorporated towns and villages and are of little or no use – just providing another unnecessary layer of government. My Township, however, provides just about every service that a homeowner needs and expects. My street is usually plowed long before those governed by any other body, including the State; potholes get patched swiftly; a phone call gets an answer and a problem gets solved; storm catch basins were installed last summer when a major storm overflowed the ditches on each side of the street and flooded it – plus everyone got a nice new mailbox post!
    I doubt I could get such service from a larger governing body with the speed and efficiency that I do.

    • Margarita

      Hi Angie, for some reason I cannot post a comment so I am using your posting as a vehicle to say that we in Evanston have 2 school districts serving the same exact population of students, unlike New Trier, for example who serves populations from Wilmette, Winnetka, etc.
      Three times we tried to put a referendum on so we, who pay for both districts, could decide weather to unify the districts to provide better flow and better direction to the students. But the unions pressured the politicians in Springfield and we were not allowed to have a referendum, the only town with such student population characteristics to be denied a referendum, in all Illinois.
      Year after year students from the elementary district go unprepared to the high school district, who in turn is forced to create basic reading and math courses, tutoring, etc with added costs to the taxpayer, to deal with those who don’t make it at the entrance exam. The Elementary district is only concerned that they look good in the eyes of the state so they inflate the exam grades. Hispanics, among other disgraces, go to high school not mastering English, for example, so they could never enroll in honors or AP courses even if they wanted. Information about college is not given to parents or students until the last minute and never spoken about at the elementary level, which is when kids start shaping their future lives.
      Anyway, could you post this as a regular posting for me? Thanks, Margarita

      • Reed Bible

        March 14, 2011

        Ed –

        I hope you were not referring to Hispanics as “disgraces”, because they have not mastered the English language by the time they begin matriculation through high school in Evanston?! If you meant that the failure to master the English language – not the racial/ethnic group-is a disgrace, you certainly clumsily worded you message!

        Moreover, I think you are mucking up up the waters with this issue. Your concern seems to be more with inter-relations between school districts and authorities, and not with the inefficiencies and redundancies of township services. School districts are yet another specialized layer of government, separate and distinct from township governments.

    • Ed Erwin

      Hi Angie. I too live in Lake Villa Township, but I disagree with your opinion about the efficiency of both township government in general and Lake Villa Township government in particular. Our highway commissioner and that office’s budget is larger than the Villages of Lindenhurst and Lake Villa on a dollar per mile basis, and, at the boundary of the municipality and the township, the condition of the roads deteriorate drastically. In Lake County we pay the highest property tax in the State of Illinois and the iron-clad control and spending authority that Dan Venturi has and exercises over Lake Villa Township is a large part of that tax burden. I’m sorry, but I cannot support a township supervisor who has never missed an opportunity to raise our property taxes, even if it meant that you got a new mail box.

  2. Back in the 70s there was an organized effort in the Northern Suburbs called SCOTS — some citizens opposed to township spending. It lobbied for elimination of Niles, Evanston and Maine Twps, as I recall. It really never got traction since the township governments were such nice patronage havens for both parties. The Dems would back SCOTS until they grabbed control of the township government from the GOP and vice versa.
    Niles Township government has grown like wildfire since. It has been feverishly inventing things for itself to do. It built and staffed a huge daycare center, doles out food from a food bank, gives computer lessons etc. etc. etc.
    Evanston Twp. is contiguous to the city, but staffs several offices where it administers welfare and seniors programs and who knows what else.
    But the townships are convenient repositories for pols who need an electoral stepping stone or a place to quietly end their political lives and are sources of patronage jobs. I would be really pessimistic about the prospects for success of yet another, needed, well intentioned, yet Quixotic attempt to abolish them.
    As President Reagan said, the closest thing we will ever have to eternal life on this earth is a government agency.

  3. Overtaxed in IL.

    Chicago Lampoon, I was glad to read what it different about this proposal. It seems there will be allowances for individual townships to be abolished is different in may ways from the previous attempts which required agreement across the state from all townships. So if one Township voted no then all townships stood the kill shot for the 1970s attempt to do this.

    There are townships in IL that are necessary as a large percent of the area is unincorporated i.e. not tended to by a village, town, city or the county. In these areas the voters will likey vote in their own self interest and keep township government in place. Which they have a right to do!

    There are also many townships where the majority the the citizens, roads, etc. are indeed tended to by a village, town, city or the county and Township government serves only as a redundant taxing body and a burden to the property owners.

    I live in one of these townships and I can’t wait for a chance to vote to dissolve my township government as we are about 95% incorporated but 100% pay taxes into the township coffers!

    Awesome idea whose time has come I will be watching this one as it works it’s way through the political process.

    • Mark

      Dear Overtaxed,
      When you have a question about your property taxes you can easily contact the Township Assessors office and someone will assist you immediately. Do you really think when a BIGGER unit of government takes that job over the quality of service will improve? Do you truly believe when BIG government assumes the dollars you pay for your current services that you will some how pay less? I promise you will be served less by BIG government. Small government is not the problem it is the answer.

      • Marie C.

        Mark, whenever I have a question about my property taxes (or anyone else’s), I call the county treasurer or the county assessor. I would never dream of calling the township.

      • Overtaxed in IL.

        Dear Marc,

        I agree with you in theory, smaller government is better. Government closer to the people is a better. And if you live in a township where you agree and are willing to fund everything your Township Government does then with the newly proposed legislation you will have the chance to get out there and convincing your neighbors to vote will you to keep that layer of government and that layer of taxes on your property tax bill.

        I am with Marie who commented on your comment. Our township assessor is old and addled and can’t give a direct answer to any questions to save his life. The assessor before the current one was a corrupt as they come with his good old boy network and party politics.

        I have been involved in local politics for over 30 years in three different townships in two different counties living both in incorporated and unincorporated areas. I agree with the new legislation wholeheartedly, let the taxpayers and voters of each township decide what is working or not working for them and what they are willing to pay for in their property tax bill. Isn’t that government for the people by the people Marc?

  4. markg8

    Here in Downers Grove Township the Hwy Dept paid $15,000 annually the last time I looked for cell phones for a staff of about 10. They also paid for two way walkie talkies. This is ridiculous.

    The state government ought to make it easier to get rid of Twp governments. It is a little patronage army for the local GOP party in DuPage and some of the salaries are nuts. In Winfield the Hwy commissioner makes $112,000 a year and is responsible for about 12 miles of road. In Downers Grove Twp it’s not much better. I think it’s $86,000 a year for about 74 miles of road. That’s calculated using one lane so it’s really only about 37 miles of suburban streets. With a staff of 10.

    If you’re in a rural area and twp government is all you’ve got I can understand the need. But here in the burbs and the city where it’s redundant we ought to have a simple and transparent method of discontinuing these wasteful little fiefdoms and turning the responsibilities over to the county and municipalities.

    • Dan

      Dear Markg8,
      Apparently you can’t see the forest because the tree’s are in front of you.I live in the Village of Downers Grove and the taxes are through the roof.There are times during winter months that my street won’t be plowed for up to 24 hours later if I’m lucky.There is no brush pick-up and if I want my R.o.w. trees trimmed, I’m better off doing it myself because they are not doing much of that.Besides the snowplowing which is a joke because they don’t use plows until it snow about 2-3 inches, they try to burn it off with salt-I can’t see that being cost affective.I know several people who live in Downers Grove Township and are thrilled with the street department. As for the cell phones or two way radios-that is a very good way of communications so they can contact the crew in a timely manner.I think most public works wether being city, county or state public works, they all use them because it is a very wise choice.If they were to rid of township highway departments, the people would see their taxes go up signifigantly and the services would decrease.Wake up and smell the coffee. Township is a smaller goverment wanting less taxes , villages are bigger goverment wanting more taxes.Be careful on what you ask for.The villages , counties and even state can’t handle what they have now-throw more responsibilty on them and even less will get done at a slower rate. Dan

      • Michael

        Good point Dan. I live in Lake County and when we had this last big snow fall the County and State gave up on main roads. The second lanes and turn lanes weren’t even open for a WEEK!!! The ambulances couldn’t get to homes, total disaster. If the county couldn’t plow the main roads, when do you think they would get to your subdivision? Our Township though was able to get the roads open the next morning. Look on your tax bill and see what you pay to the Township and you might be surprised at what residents get for this small price. Getting rid of Townships won’t solve anything. It will only add more burden to an overburdened County/Village who will use it as an excuse to raise your taxes which will be more money paid and none saved!

      • markg8

        I live in the village of Downers Grove and have never had a problem with street plowing or tree trimming in the parkway. They’ve been out once already this year to trim the trees. I’m really appalled to read today that Downers Grove Twp is providing health insurance to trustees. At the March 5, 2009 meeting they expressly said trustees were no longer on the twp plan. All but one of them get Medicare as it is. Trustees in DG Twp make about $300 an hour for working about 1 hour on alternating Thursday evenings. That doesn’t count the $1500 annual raise they just got.

  5. Cicero

    In Cook County, there are fewer and fewer miles of unincorporated roadways for township highway commissioners to tend. Elk Grove Township, for example, has under 6 miles. Even when they have fewer than 10 miles left, however, the highway commissioners continue to get elected and paid (some get generous salaries), to maintain a staff, equipment and buildings.

    It’s impossible to realize economies of scale under such circumstances. On the contrary, townships with fewer than 10 miles of unincorporated roads typically spend several times as much per mile on road maintenance as the adjacent villages do along different parts of the same roads.

    There are several township officials in the legislature. Rep. Ed Sullivan is an assessor, while Rep. Al Riley is a Supervisor and Rep. Bob Rita was a trustee along with his Mother last time I checked. Consequently, it’s very difficult to change the status quo.

    The House Committee on Counties and Townships is dominated by current and former township officials who still have allies in township government even when they themselves no longer serve.

  6. Jim Kadlec

    The government of DuPage Township (in northern Will County) is run as patronage fiefdom of Roger Claar, Bolingbrook’s mayor. There’s little transparency — requests to include meeting agendas and minutes, and financial statements on the Township’s web site are resisted. A former assessor’s wife was on his payroll. The few miles of Township roads (there no longer is a Highway Supervisor) could be maintained by the Township’s three cities, as could public assistance. The State Comptroller’s web site reports that Illinois has 6904 units of government — the most of any of the 50 states. If information regarding the operations of many of the 1435 township governments were presented to their residents, the residents most surely would favor eliminating these needless governments.

  7. Maybe we’d be better off if Township Governments got rid of the State, County local level units? Perhaps the Feds too. We could become a federation of TWPs.

    In truth, where TWPs work, they work well. Where they don’t, they are boutique patronage laden appendages. Most of our governmental affiliations are well over 100 years old. The laws that insulate TWPs from
    accountability also do the same for every unit.

    The proof is that despite repetitively voting for “change” nothing does.

  8. Mark Thoman

    By separating assessment functions to independent Township entities here in DuPage, and then coordinating the results with the Supervisor of Assessments who hears any appeals, DuPage County has, by design or accident, avoided the corruption of process and people that are associated with centralized government assessment functions in Cook County. In the 50’s Frank Keenan was convicted on corruption charges. P.J. Cullerton was a poster boy for corruption in the 70’s. John Cullerton calling for all counties to adopt the same system is ironic.

    It also begs the question: The state is responsible for our sorry fiscal condition right now. Pointing fingers elsewhere while continuing to ignore their own sorry conduct seems disingenuous. Well, except for that bill requiring interior designers to sign off on any remodeling…that finally gets right to heart of fixing our finances.

  9. Brian Lantz - Oak Park

    I wasn’t aware of this movement until I read some responses to a vote on a senior center in Oak Park. The township set aside funds and held a public hearing on the vote, which as expected was well attended by seniors. The nearly $1 million expenditure only requied 15 affirmative votes according to the paper. Oak Park Township is fully enclosed within the Village of Oak Park. The redundancies are obvious. So are the potential efficiencies for Village control. Where can I sign up to help? Who is taking the lead on this issue? I am willing to collect signatures for a vote on Oak Park.

  10. mary ahart

    BRAVO! I have been asking this question for years? We could solve all of Illinois Deficit problems if we abolish the Townships and combine the duties into the Counties. We do not need to pay 1143 Township Supervisors and staff members.

  11. Mark Wissing

    The township road districts in Illinois maintain 53% of the state’s roads, approximately 71,000 miles.

    The Blizzard of Ground Hogs Day 2011 some areas experienced snow falls reaching 20 inches of accumulation with severe drifting. These hazardous conditions could have paralyzed large areas of our state endangering life and property had the road districts no longer existed. Geneva Township roads were all opened and passable within 11 hours of the storms ending.

    Township government is readily accessible, cost effective and timely in the services they provide. The average cost to a homeowner in Geneva Township to service their roads is less than $50.00 p/year. This money covers the cost of road repair, bridge replacement, snow plowing, mowing parkways, trimming trees, employees, benefits, equipment and much much more. Do you truly believe larger government units can operate as efficiently? I suggest reducing the size and scope of big government if you want to save real money and keep BIG GOVERNMENTS hands off of small close to the people well working units of governments.

    • James Marshall

      @ Mark Wissing: As the Geneva Township Highway Commissioner, you are only responsible for 10.83 miles of road in the township. Your current budget is approximately $830,000.00. Are you saying that the county could not more cost effectively maintain the township roads?

      Also, you said that it only costs the average homeowner $50/year. What percentage of the homeowners in Geneva live on a township road and what percentage live within the boudaries of a municiaplity/city? Based on you only being responsible for 10.83 miles of road, I would venture a guess that the vast majority of Geneva Township residents do not receive services from the Highway Commission but are still taxed by it.

      • Mark Wissing

        Dear James,

        You are correct that the budget reflect $830,000.00 last year. The important figure is the amount of money that was levied or the amount collected in taxes $286,000.00. The reason for the wide difference is State law requires that I budget for any and all of the money I could possibly spend in a budget year. I budgeted the high number because I applied for shovel ready stimulus money to replace a bridge. The bridge needed immediate replacement or the community could have been forced to detour the primary road that services the west side of Geneva. The bridge has been replaced and reopened August 10, 2010 and I have never seen one cent of the mysterious stimulus money.

        The next question was regarding the mileage. There are about 13 miles of roads in the unincorporated portion of Geneva Township including about 10 miles in sub divisions that include sidewalks, street lights, trees, curbs, signage, shoulders, ditches, culverts, four bridges, mailboxes and more. The Township has about 23,268 residents approximately 20% of those residents live in the unincorporated areas. The primary roads I care for are traveled by many users not just the folks living in the unincorporated areas.

        What must always be considered is one size does not fit all. If the county was to care for the roads located in sub divisions I am guessing that you could be waiting a long time before the plowing operations completed the primary roads and could get the smaller streets open. The county would also need to hire more employees and also need to purchase, house, and maintain the equipment. County employees earn more money than township employees so I am hard put to see how any savings would be realized. My point is smaller government is closer to the people and is more accessible.

        I am personally dissatisfied with most units of government. I got involved to change the way things are done. I changed everything about the way our road district operates. That is a dangerous thing to do if your only concern is to be re-elected. I slashed the cost of snow plowing, facility expenses, labor, and equipment. By cutting cost I’ve been able to replace a bridge, repair roads, fix shoulders strip lanes, trim trees, develop a web site, redeveloped permits, and more. I took the chance and spent the time and money to get elected because I believed getting involved was the only way these problems would get corrected.

        Thank you for your thoughtful and reasonable response to my first post I hope some of your questions have been answered.


  12. Gene Evans

    Mark Wissing you have every right to comment, but how about some disclose that you’re the Supervisor of Highways for Geneva Township and are paid by the public trough. We have been hearing these same arguements in the urban area of Illinois for years; most efficient and effective form of government, provide food and senior services, etc. Yet my township and neighboring ones are the least transparent as far as salaries, expenses and nepotism of any of the governments I’ve encountered. A case can be made for rural areas, but for redundant urban townships, your days are numbered.

    • Mark Wissing

      Good Morning Gene,

      I am the elected Commissioner of Highways. I agree that there are bad apples in every barrel but that is the same in every unit of government. The difference is big government is easier to corrupt because it has more distance from the public. I suggest if you dislike the way things are going just get involved and fix them. Please don’t paint all townships with the same broad brush.

      Thank you, Mark

  13. Mac

    If there are areas of your Township Government not serving the community fairly or efficiently then run as a Trustee argue to reduce the levy and budget. The Supervisor is beholden to the 4 board of Trustee members. Stuff the board because the Trustees set all salaries once every for years. Then you run for Supervisor and fix the problems. Or just keep complaining because that’s easy.

  14. Rick T.

    As a township attorney and clerk, I can see both sides. Some thoughts:
    1) The root of the problem is that the same township code applies to downstate and urban townships, which are totally different.
    2) All township food pantries that I know of are staffed with volunteers, and give away donated food. There is no expense to the taxpayers, except for infrastructure such as refrigerators.
    3) Most counties could not take on the extra work to maintain township roads without additional staff and equipment, so there would be minimal savings. Also, most cities would never allow their snowplows or road crews outside of city limits without compensation. Again, minimal savings.
    4) Why would any county under township organization want to mimic the Cook County assessment procedure? There are laws that apply only to Cook County for a reason.
    5) The employees at the townships that I am familiar with have been there longer than the elected officials. There is minimal patronage.
    6) Township general assistance is not welfare. Recipients are required to work at non-profit organizations for the equivilent of minimum wage in order to get assistance. Townships also give emergency assistance for people who are not yet receiving anything else, when a landlord is evicting a family or someone’s unable to get non-emergency medical care.
    7) Townships are the lowest tax rate on your tax bill in most cases.
    8) In Illinois, most local government units, such as all cities, park districts and library districts, were created by referendum, so the fact that Illinois has more units than other states is not a reason to eliminate townships. If we have too many units, then change the laws that allow the creation of more units every year. Who would sponsor a law that says there can never be another new city, park district or library?
    9) Township road districts are required to pay one-half of their road fund taxes to cities within the township, pro-rated based on assessed value, so that city residents are not subsidizing unincorporated residents.
    10) It would be too complicated and inefficient to eliminate only some townships in a county. It has to be all or none.
    11) Before eliminating townships, be sure the county and cities are willing and able to pick up the township duties. As far as I know, the counties and cities do not want that responsibility.

    Overall, this article was very one-sided.

    • Cicero

      == Township road districts are required to pay one-half of their road fund taxes to cities within the township, pro-rated based on assessed value, so that city residents are not subsidizing unincorporated residents. ==
      In my township, just 3% of the roads are unincorporated. The fact that half of my township highway tax goes to my town means that the other half goes to subsidize the 3% who live in the unincorporated area. How do you figure it’s not a subsidy when 3% of the roads get 50% of the revenue??
      BTW, do you agree that economies of scale are impossible when servicing under 10 miles of roadway, compared to the adjacent towns that service 200 miles or more?

  15. jones

    One needs to remember that townships are the basis for electing both democratic and republican committemen. This is why the never will go away. Every four years you elect a committeman in your respective township.

    • Mark Wissing

      Dear Jones,

      Partisan Precinct Committeemen are elected every two years to represent their political party in their neighborhood. Our town can elect 21 Democrats, 21 Republican, 21 Green Party, 21 Independents.

      If you would like to be elected to the Town Board of Trustees most towns do that with non-partisan elections. Four Trustees are elected to represent the entire Township and its business affairs. You do not need to be associated with any party to get on the ballot or elected. Trustees are people just like you and me that care enough to become involved and help guide the people’s government. As a Trustee my biggest reward was helping feed thousands of meals to people in my community. To be a good member of the board will require commitment of your time and energy. I enjoyed being on the board and recommend the experience to others.

      Good luck, Mark

      • Cicero

        Food pantries are nice, but we don’t need a separate unit of local gov’t to have them. The biggest food pantry in my township is run by a megachurch — with no tax dollars.

    • Cicero

      We could keep the geographic divisions called townships, just eliminate the governments. We could still elect party committeemen, who are not paid and don’t cost taxpayers anything.

    • Overtaxed in IL.


      The democratic and republican committeemen have nothing to do with Township Government. Any one who goes to their County Clerk and picks up their petition packet, gets signatures, completes the required forms and submits everything correctly, completely, notarized and on time gets their name on the ballot and can be elected.

      The group that then has legislative power over precinct committeemen and women is not governmental body at all, it is the County Chairman Association (Republican and Democratic).

      The elected precinct committeemen then elect a Township Chair for their township. The Township Chair is the person that organizes and communicates with the precincts committeemen in his Township. He also is the communication point for the County Chairman.

      Each elected Committeeman at the County Convention then elects a County Chairman. Every elected committeeman cast the number of votes that they were elected with. So if you got 231 votes on election day from the residents of your precinct then you cast 231 votes for your County Chairman/woman. The County Chairman is the person that organizes and communicates with the Township Chairs within his County. He also is the communication point for the statewide political party.

      This all happens within the political party structure not within a governmental structure.

      (I am using “he” in the global sense .. there are plenty of committeewomen and I am sure County Chairwomen as well)

  16. jones

    Dear Mark,
    My original post wasn’t as clear as I had intended. Every four years in the primary election voters elect a committeeman in their respective townships. For example, Don Harmon is the Democratic Committeeman for Oak Park Township. No Republican ran in the last primary election so we don’t have a Republican Committeeman in Oak Park Township. Don Harmon is gaining in political power as a state senator. His committeeman post only further bolsters his power. Just know that these “Committeeman” post are organized by township. Get rid of townships and you take away an arena of power.

  17. john myers

    As an immigrant to Illinois some 25 years ago, I have always been puzzled by the need for Townships. I favor their complete elimination if it can be made to result in reductions in property taxes. Too many of these attempts at rationalization of local government leave the staffing levels untouched and merely merge them into the new entity. This happened in both Toronto and Montreal when those entities formed metropolitan governments. Talking of metropolitan governments, why does the Chicago metropolitan area have over 300 towns and villages?

  18. John

    It’s easy to focus on “10 miles of roadway” and say how easy it would be to just throw everything to the County, but it isn’t that simple. If you look at assessments (in all but Cook County) having the County Assessor do these would be disastrous. Who really wants to be like Cook County? The assessments are a mess and in no way reflect reality. On my $5,000 tax bill in Lake County I paid $67 to the township. In return I have a local assessor who knows my area and is available to me. If I’m not happy with his service I can vote for someone else. The county guy is appointed! What if we look at consolidating some of these units of government? Why can’t the township absorb the township library district or park district? These districts usually have multiple municipalities so it wouldn’t make sense to roll into a village and the County would be hard pressed to be able to deal with so many spread throughout the county. On my $5000 tax bill I paid $246 to the Library! I also paid $240 to the Forest Preserve! So, how much money are we really saving by getting rid of Townships? $67? Look at the services provided and it would seem worth the expense. I do feel that Cook County Townships would be a reasonable place to look at since the assessments are done at the County and many have only 10 miles of road left.

  19. Niles Township’s government (Skokie, Morton Grove, Lincolnwood and parts of Glenview and Niles) has decided that it will run a food pantry. It pays 2 employees $81k to manage it and recently just got a $5k FEMA grant for a back up generator for its refrigerator. Nearby churches do the same thing with volunteers and little fanfare. See:

  20. Pingback: OTL: Episode #239- Inefficient IL Townships, YMTE Mid-Week Review, Wal-Mart’s Proposed Lakeview Store | Outside the Loop RADIO

  21. Our township is nothing more then a political cronie salary location. They do not offer more services and have no benefit. They just find ways to spend the money… For example, $200K went to a memorial garden for the Mayor. I say eliminate DuPage Township in Bolingbrook! Many others feel this way in our community!

  22. Pingback: A Step Toward Streamlining Government in Cook County | BGA Think Tank

  23. Rosemarie T. DeWitt

    All this talk about saving money by eliminating township highway departments is simply not true! Please read what SB1907 does:
    “Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Amends the Illinois Highway Code. Provides that by resolution, the board of trustees of any township located in Cook County, Illinois, may submit a proposition to abolish the road district of that township to the electors of that township at a general election or consolidated election. Provides a form for such a proposition. Provides that, upon abolition: the rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations, and responsibilities of the road district shall vest in and be assumed by the township; the township board of trustees shall assume all taxing authority of the abolished road district; a highway commissioner of the abolished road district shall cease to hold office; the township shall exercise all duties and responsibilities of the highway commissioner; the township board of trustees may enter into a contract with the county, a municipality, or a private contractor to administer the roads under its jurisdiction;
    Now here comes the good part:
    the township board of trustees shall assume all taxing authority of the road district; and, for purposes of distribution of revenue, the township shall assume the powers, duties, and obligations of the road district. Amends the Property Tax Code and the Township Code. Makes corresponding changes to allow the township to levy a tax for road purposes that was previously the responsibility of the abolished road district.

    And please remember, 1/2 of all monies levied by your township road & bridge are distributed to “all” municipalities in that township. Those funds never reach the township highway departments. In addition, most highway departments issue, each municipality, a Personal Property Replacement Tax Reimbursement check every year. Motor fuel tax funds will be lost. IDOT will not be issuing these monies to the township boards.

    Township Highway Departments benefit “all” taxpayers in a township, not just the residents of the unincorporated areas. Please research the issue before voting to dissolve your township road & bridge district.

    Rosemarie T. DeWitt
    Special Asst. to Hwy. Commissioner
    George Miller
    Thornton Twp. Road & Bridge
    South Holland, Illinois

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