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Letters to the Editor

For more efficient use of tax dollars, eliminate townships

End duplication of equipment and buildings

John McLane, Grand Detour
John McLane, Grand Detour

Recent articles in various publications about township government have all had a common theme: eliminate it. Letters favoring townships have come from individuals dependent on townships for income.

I have served as trustee on Grand Detour’s Township Board for the past 4 years. I never thought about townships until an issue came up that concerned many in the village.

Loose dogs were biting and frightening people. The board was asked to adopt a dog ordinance, and the request was unanimously denied.

Feeling the board wasn’t responsive, three of us ran for trustee in 2009. When I filed, an incumbent asked: “Why? All we do is approve bills.”

That’s about all many township boards do. Road commissioners have important responsibilities, but other township board duties could easily be done at the county level at much less cost.

In Ogle County, 2012 beginning balances in township funds totaled $6,242,489, with four townships not even reporting. Relief funds for residents in need had surpluses totaling $769,460.

This is idle surplus of taxpayer money.

Eight townships budgeted less than $1,000 for relief. One relief fund had a balance of $184,000 after distributions of under $3,000 the prior year. Many township funds carry very large surpluses.

Most townships have at least one building, and some have both a township hall and a garage. I believe all but one have road equipment consisting of trucks, graders, etc.  Many have two or more trucks and some share a grader.

With the exception of the largest townships, many buildings are seldom used, and equipment sits idle, still requiring maintenance and insurance.

Our township board could almost be called a “family business.” Before my term, four members were related by blood or marriage. Long terms are typical. Our supervisor has served at least eight 4-year terms, and two others served seven – generally running unopposed for decades.

I’ve spoken to four of the 17 Illinois counties that don’t have townships. Three of the counties have 10 or fewer road districts with two elected employees. The other county takes care of all roads at the county level with 30 employees.

Ogle County has 24 townships, each with seven or eight elected employees. Ogle County has close to 180 paid, elected township officials plus more buildings and equipment than is needed.

Morgan County near Springfield has 10 road districts that maintain 730 miles of road and only 20 elected people. Their total salaries are approximately $500,000, which includes part-time help when needed, i.e., for plowing.

Ogle County township salaries cannot be totaled due to incomplete submittal of budgets. My best estimate is a minimum of $1.5 million up to $2 million or more.

One Ogle township appears to budget almost $320,000 for salaries and benefits, including pensions. Some others also provide benefits.

Illinois has many more units of government than other states and is near bankruptcy. If our elected state, county, and township representatives truly want to save taxpayers’ money, they should eliminate townships.

Smarter, smaller, more efficient government is needed. It’s no longer the 19th century.

Note to readers – John McLane, a trustee for Grand Detour Township, has lived in Grand Detour for more than 35 years.

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