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Our view: Let residents decide on government

Those who are serious about reducing the amount of local governments in Illinois have an ally in state Rep. David McSweeney. The Barrington Hills Republican has a plan that could lead to the elimination of townships in McHenry County and, if copied, around the state.

McSweeney has helped to advance a proposal that would allow voters in that county to put a referendum on the ballot calling for the elimination of their townships with a petition signed by 5 percent of voters from a previous comparable election.

If 50 percent of voters support elimination at the polls, the township would be dissolved within 90 days after the election. All property, personnel, contractual obligations and liabilities inside the township then would transfer to the county.

That was the plan from an earlier proposal, sponsored by a couple of other state representatives, state Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, and state Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee.

​McSweeney’s idea is to add a few other provisions: one that gives township boards power to put a referendum on the ballot with a majority vote, another that includes a built-in 10 percent reduction in property taxes on both the township and road district, and a third that calls for the elimination of a road district of any township responsible for less than 15 road miles.

The Illinois House Government Consolidation and Modernization Committee advanced the legislation, which is known as House Bill 4637, on Monday.

It should be easier to consolidate governments in Illinois. That’s why we support the recent proposal by McSweeney, Yingling and Skillicorn.

All actions in the proposal would benefit taxpayers and eliminate wasteful spending in places such as Algonquin Township, where the highway department alone has proposed a $250,000 budget for legal fees.

The bill only would apply to the 17 townships in McHenry County, according to a news release from McSweeney’s office. McHenry County’s other local units of government include 29 municipalities and numerous road districts, all to govern the county’s population of about 300,000 people, according to the release.

We would like to see all residents have the same rights to determine how many local governments serve them. 

“Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, and it is time we did something to give voters the opportunity to do something to scale back government,” McSweeney said in a statement. “The multiple layers of often redundant local government are a bad deal for Illinois taxpayers and are a part of the reason why Illinois has the second-worst property taxes in the nation.”

We agree. Getting rid of the many units of government in Illinois will help reduce the property tax burden on residents – and this bill is a step in the right direction.

But it shouldn’t stop with townships. Our elected officials should consider other ways to consolidate others of the thousands of units of local governments in the state.

We hope HB 4637 gets an up-or-down vote on the House floor, and that this type of consolidation becomes possible not only in McHenry County townships, but everywhere, in every form of government, in the state.

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