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Cut Taxes, Cut Waste: Abolish Township Government

posted: January 04, 2010 • Categories: IssuesComments: 14

You’ve heard me talk about the need to reduce the burden on taxpayers many times throughout this campaign. Illinois has more taxing bodies than any other state. We’ve got fixed-income seniors across this district afraid of losing their homes and hard-working families struggling to pay bills due to skyrocketing property tax bills (not to mention the recent sales tax increase brought to us by our very own DuPage Establishment “Republican” leaders). We’re paying property taxes through our noses even as we see our home values plummet. This is a wasteful burden we shouldn’t be saddled with in this economy (or any time!).

Frankly, one of the best ways to reduce this burden and help spark Illinois’ financial recovery is to eliminate one of these taxing entities. I’m calling for Illinois to abolish Township Government—due to its waste, ineffectiveness, and constant misuse of your hard-earned dollars.

Townships across the state have been collecting a portion of your property tax bill for years, without providing an equal amount of services back. In reality, these governments are simply a localized version of countywide government with similar programs and services. Most residents aren’t even aware of what Townships provide (many aren’t even aware they exist!), much less have any idea who the elected officials are.

There is no coincidence that the Trustees, Supervisors, and other Township employees want you to be blind to the business they conduct—or don’t conduct.  Our Townships are filled with cronies who gladly earn a salary and generous benefits off of your hard work.  It’s time for Republicans to stand for limited government once again—and put an end to Township government.

In the recent ABC-7 I-Team Report, the Better Government Association brought to light the corruption and waste housed within the walls of Township government. “Cronyism, nepotism, patronage...all in the service of taking care of friends and families and campaign contributors," said Andy Shaw, executive director, Better Government Association.

Townships across Illinois spend huge amounts of their budgets on salaries. For example, Berwyn Township spends 40% of their total expenditures on salaries; Bloom Township 47%; Calumet Township 46%; Norwood Park Township 45%; Schaumburg Township, 41%; Cicero Township, well, who knows. Cicero Township hasn’t filed their financials with the Illinois State Comptroller’s office. (Note: None of these percentages includes benefits!)

While Proviso Township isn’t the worst offender—25% of their budget goes to paying salaries (again, not including benefits)—according to the Better Government Association, Proviso Township could afford to operate one year without collecting taxes because they have a $4.5 million stockpile! All across Cook County, nearly $100 million has been collected and sits in cash accounts, unspent. No governing body should hold onto OUR money.

But that’s not the only problem with Townships. We have a similar problem with double dipping much like the pension system. Currently there is no stopping state legislators from holding positions in multiple levels of government. Three state elected officials hold posts in Springfield and their local townships, cashing in twice on lucrative salaries and benefits paid for by you!

We cannot continue to let this type of wasteful government to flourish in Illinois. The same services Township governments are mandated to do—road repair and temporary relief to the poor—could easily be transferred to County governments. Certainly, the non-mandated services Townships provide—such as throwing Valentine’s Day parties for seniors—could be eliminated. I think we could encourage our local churches or communities of faith to step up in this area.

By abolishing Townships, we’ll provide tax relief to everyone: seniors on fixed incomes, average families, and families going through rough times. You won’t hear the Establishment politicians calling for the waste to stop because they benefit from the cronyism and tax-payer funded patronage that Townships provide.

Township Government: Essential or Expendable? The Case of Illinois and Cook County

ABC-7 I-Team Report: Multi-taxed Video

ABC-7 I-Team Report: The Clout Farm Video


I’ve never thought about this before, but it seems to make sense for the most part. What would the impact be on schools (i.e. York (township) HS and Lyons Township HS.)? Would abolishing Townships elminate money going to schools?

Rafael, I hope you will reconsider your position on abolishing township governments.  I think you will find that in suburban Cook county, the few government services that are offered to residents are offered by townships.  Generally, the suburban area is the cash cow to fund inner city programs and related projects.  Cook county hospital, the various parks and forest preserves would not run if not for the suburban portion of those taxes going to fund them.  But when do our suburban residents use those services?  When was the last time our poor ventured into the city for the free hospital?  It rarely happens.  So, where do our poor go when they require some type of service?  Usually the township.

Instead of consolidating more power in the county government, a failed and corrupt system, we should begin to dismantle it, and assign the job of assessing to our local township assessors.  The job of collecting, should go to the local collector.

I thought it interesting that ABC focused on the patronage that seems to run rampant in township government.  Nothing like Cook county government, where the very county board president appointed his own son to lead.  Sure the quick fix is to cut townships.  Instead, lets focus on cutting corruption and waste from the county government.  And we do that by ridding ourselves of as much centralized government as possible, and returning power to a more local level.  Will we have problems?  Certainly, but residents will have a greater opportunity to impact the system than they currently do with one county representative.

Think about it.  I’d be glad to further discuss the matter at your convenience.

John, township government does not fund schools, so abolishing township government would not impact schools at all.

Thanks for posting your question.

I think some of the corruption comes from townships.  I realize they are part of a successful town.  I just think that with the way the economic situation is now, a closer look at where our hard earned tax dollars go is a “no brainer”  something I am sure that townships were not (if I can use this term) banking on!

Great idea. I wonder why cities can’t absorb some of these services too. I love local government, but this is too much local government.

Couple things, Jay: 1. You mean that the poor have access to FREE HOSPITALS but won’t “venture” to use them? WHAT?!?! So, the township picks up a healthcare tab when FREE healthcare is already available. Talk about waste!! (Or, please clarify). 2. are you suggesting that instead of abolishing townships, we ought to abolish counties?!?!? I agree there’s tons of corruption, but I can at least think of services they provide—as opposed to townships. I mean, honestly. Townships once had a place, I’m sure. But most of us are paying money for stuff we don’t even know exists. (I guess this is the case with most of our tax dollars, though..)

Great article Rafael.  I never thought about this either.  We pay so many taxes it’s hard to have any idea where all the $$ goes.  One less government entitiy wasting our tax dollars on things such as officials double dipping for salaries and benefits sounds like a great idea.

I have never given thought to townships and why we have them.  I did a search to try to find out when/why they were established…this is what I came up with from the Illinois State Comptroller’s website.

“Northern settlers arriving in Illinois from New England states strongly advocated for the creation of townships, and the 1848 Constitution made township organization optional for each county. Of the 102 counties in Illinois, 85 adopted townships while the remaining 17 counties adopted a commission form of governance. According to the Census Bureau, there are 1,431 townships in Illinois. Townships are responsible for three key functions: property tax assessment, township road maintenance and local assistance (indigent relief), although many larger townships provide additional services. In counties without townships, the county governments are responsible for property assessment and general assistance and road maintenance is performed by road districts.”

I didn’t know they were optional!!  It clearly says that the couties without townships handle the assessments, road and assistance responsibilities.  I wonder how much of our hard earned money would be saved by eliminating something that’s OPTIONAL?!?!  I’m sorry, but I am SICK AND TIRED of watching our paychecks get smaller as government gets bigger.  No one has ever asked me if I’d like to opt in or out of having a township in my county.  I cannot understand why there are 85 Illinois counties with townships, and then over ONE THOUSAND, FOUR HUNDRED townships?!?!  Are you kidding me??  Rafael, I like that you’re encouraging me to think about this.  I’m really tired of accepting what’s handed to me, when it seems we should have an option!

I think it is irresponsible to gather a majority of your facts from a news report on Townships instead of seeing the good that Townships do in areas. The areas featured were within Cook county and I can tell you it is not that way in most parts of the state. “Elimination as a whole” is a dangerous thing in any environment. 

I am an elected Republican Township official in Wayne Townhip who is a stay at home mother.  I ran to be involved in the community and I beleive in the services we provide to our area.  I would love the opportunity for you to see my township and the people who’s lives we effect. 

A Valentine party may be had, but guess what, the seniors donate thousands to the General Assistance to help deal with the 70% increase of assistance we’ve seen within our community. By the way those seniors are some of the most active within the communty and they vote.

Township goverment operates on less than 1 cent of each tax dollar you pay. Do you know any other goverment body that offers services to the public that does that? That is effective/lean goverment.  I think there are many other things to look at changing that can get you a better rate of return.

You state that your a conservative?? Why in the heck would you then say our services could be handled on the county level?  Guess what, when they run out of resources they will turn to the state. We know how the state is operating now. That sir is exactly how goverment has gotten too big.

By looking after “our own” in our communities we are relying less on people who are constantly campaigning every other year to have time to focus on our issues.  If you are looking to make a difference worry about campaign reform. I would rather have my elected officials worrying less about fundraising and more about making some real changes for real people.  Especially the ones that don’t have the money to get their voices heard.

Hi Brandi,

Thanks for posting your thoughts.

I think it’s irresponsible to assume I gathered a majority of my facts from a news report on Townships.  Here’s another source that I used and backs up my position:


What do you have?

As a consevative, I am for less government. And many states do just fine without the extra layer of township government.  You know very well that township government is filled with cronies and patronage.

The services that are performed by townships can still be had without the extra layer of government.

You should know that since I wrote this I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the voters. They get it! Of course, the politicians that are either in township government or park their cronies in township government disagree.

Hi Rafael,

I don’t appreciate the tone of part of your reply. It makes its sound like because I am in my position I was a cronie.

You asked what do I have?? I guess I have the question I asked you unanswered. Do you know any government that operates on a penny per tax dollar?

It must be safe to take your response as a no to my offer to visit our township. I was hoping for you to see the other side of the coin. Thank you for your document, I personally like to look at both sides of the argument,although I disagree.

The reason I posted the above response to your posting was because you solicited me via e-mail. I was excited to learn more about your candidacy so I clicked through.

You may want to do better target marketing and eliminate politicians and all known cronies.  How are you going to get anything done or get along with anyone in Springfield if you attack everyone who is a Republican or accuse them of being part of a machine? I am not trying to attack you. Sincerely I think you should take a look at the reader comments posted today in the Daily Herald…


I guess it is best to agree to disagree.  I do feel it is nice to have this forum on your campaign page and appreciate not deleting my opposing views as I am sure some would have.

Brandi, 1% may not be a lot to you but it is $125 a year to me. My township has less than 8 miles of rod to manage at a cost of over $30,000 per mile per year. Other forms of government do it for half of that expense. Also, I should decide to wich charities I contribute, the township should not tax me, then pay and administraive amount of up to 35%, to administer the donation to social services (I can give to my church without a 35% admin charge). In summary, eliminating township government would save ne about 60% a year inwhat the township charges me. I would rather have the $70 to help me pay my heating bill than give it to an antiquated form of government. Do away with townships now!

I have lived in Plainfield Township Il. for 45 yrs. Our Township is very active in taking care of all the people like me that live in unincorporated areas. I can’t imagine having to wait for the County to take care of our roads and the many other services the Township provides for our community. What do we gain by shifting those duties to the next higher level of goverment except more inefficiences and a group of home owners not getting services in a timely manner and in many cases not at all. I am very opposed to such a thing happening. I do not begrudge one penney of my taxes going to our Township for the good services they provide for us.

As one employee that works for a township highway department, I can say that if you do away with townships all together than you might as well invest in snowmobiles for the winter and tractors for the summer. Because county crews are limited and for most of the summer rely on townships help to get the road done. Most all townships do not have pensions and most do not provide insurance. We make less than county crews and we provide very needed road services to farmers and rural familys. We do have a budget but its so small that most of the time we can only pave 1 mile a road a year and the rest with constant patch work. Now in bigger cities like chicago it may benifit this proposal because thay have the man power in state a county crews but in most countys in Illinois we are already streched as much as possible and would only hurt the tax payers in the long run. This will not lower taxes, because the county would have to hire twice as many people and give them pension and health that the township workers do not get. Vote no, or suffer later….

You’re telling me that townships are “an extra layer of government,” but you’ve got your facts backward. The power of the people STARTS at the township level - and is then diminished as you move up through the county and state levels. You obviously favor a bigger county government as an alternative to locally controlled townships. You know, it takes guts to stand up to the voter and taxpayer and tell them that big government can do a better job or less money than the people can do for themselves.

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