Downstate Belleville dissolves township, rolls services into city

By Mindy Ruckman 
Illinois Policy

The residents of Belleville are about to receive some well-needed tax relief.

Belleville City Council recently voted to dissolve the city’s township, a move which will save taxpayers $260,000 per year. Starting in May 2017, the city will take over the township’s functions.

Belleville Township collected over half a million dollars from taxpayers in 2015. Yet, its only function has been to administer financial aid to about 40 qualifying residents. Of the nearly $550,000 tax dollars collected, only a third, or $175,000 of that money, actually went toward general assistance and community projects. The other two-thirds, $375,000, went toward paying for six employee and administrative salaries, as well as other administrative expenses.

This township is one example of the thousands of redundant and unnecessary governmental units taxpayers are funding, but from which they receive little benefit. Townships are an outdated form of local government and often do not perform services distinct from their overlapping municipalities. In some cases, townships only add to the cost of duplicative layers of government, which burden taxpayers without providing value. These sorts of government entities contribute to Illinois’ growing debt, waste and corruption. It’s hard to keep track of government officials with so many units of government.

In fact, Illinois has more than 7,000 units of local government – more than any other state in the nation – and each of these units of government adds to Illinois’ high tax burden. The average Illinois resident lives under six layers of government, which could include a county, township, city and any other special taxing districts, such as a library district or a park district. Some areas have even more layers of government. Elgin residents, for example, pay taxes to 16 different government entities.

With so many government entities, it’s no wonder Illinois has the highest property tax burden in the nation.

Illinois residents desperately need reforms to allow for local government consolidation.

House Bill 4501, which passed the Illinois House of Representatives, would allow counties to dissolve and consolidate township districts through a county ordinance or a citizen petition and referendum. Unfortunately, the spring session ended before this bill passed the Senate.

Nonetheless, Belleville City Council’s decision to dissolve its township is a win for Belleville taxpayers, and a step in the right direction. Other local governments should follow Belleville’s lead, and take initiative to root out wasteful bureaucracies.

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