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Incompetence, not efficiency

Coloma Township’s failure to file proper forms delayed the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, and still the township was able to function. This is hardly an example of efficiency and accountability.

Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Supporters of township government say Illinois’ 1,432 townships are the most efficient, accountable way to provide roads and bridges, real estate assessment, and emergency assistance to the poor.

In the wake of Saturday’s story about Coloma Township in SVM’s “Under the Radar: Many townships, little scrutiny” series, we must admit that a certain degree of efficiency might exist.

After all, how else could a township operate for 3 tax years without receiving real estate taxes?

Because Coloma Township failed to publish its financial statement in the newspaper, the Whiteside County treasurer withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by Coloma taxpayers.

By September 2011, the withheld taxes had soared to $410,942. At that point, the township published its financial statements from 3 years and sent a certificate of publication to the county, and the money was finally released.

However, Coloma Township officials are at it again. The county has not yet received this year’s certificate of publication from Coloma, so taxes paid by Coloma property owners sit idle in county coffers.

What gives? Wouldn’t the No. 1 priority of a tax-supported unit of government be to do everything necessary to receive its tax distribution so as to finance its operations?

Coloma Township also has not turned in an annual financial report to the state comptroller’s office for the past 3 years.

Again, why?

If township officials, from the supervisor, clerk, highway commissioner, and assessor on down to the trustees, don’t want to do the job right, they should resign and quit collecting their paychecks.

And about that $410,942? Observers might conclude that the township taxes its residents way too much, if it can function for 3 years on its reserves without a fresh infusion of tax money.

That’s not efficiency and accountability.

It’s incompetence and irresponsibility.

A better way has been found by the 17 Illinois counties that function just fine without townships. Road districts handle roads and bridges, while the county handles assessor duties and aid to the poor.

To us, this episode is more proof that a creaky, 19th-century system, still used in 85 Illinois counties, has long outlived its usefulness.

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