January 22, 2007

Why do we need township government?

The Dispatch/Argus is to be commended for bringing to light some data on township government, in particular the South Moline Township, which recently raised taxes by 109% while giving its employees raises totaling $26,000.

In years past, efforts have been made to abolish this extra layer of government altogether, the argument being that other governmental bodies could easily absorb the duties currently performed by townships at an enormous savings to taxpayers.

An effort was made to put the question on the ballot, but I don't recall if it was successful, and if it was, the measure was defeated, as nothing was done.

It did cause the townships to have to engage in a campaign to try to argue that they were necessary. Most of the country does not even have a township layer of government, but in Illinois, 85 of the 102 counties do.

Townships primarily duties are to determine the value of property for taxation, take care of roads not maintained by other government entities and distribute welfare to the local poor not eligible for other public aid.

The article which appeared several days ago in the D/A is dense with salary figures and other data, but some stand out.

Most township employees work part time, but receive full salaries and benefits.

South Moline Township has a budget of nearly $1 million dollars, but just passed a 109% tax increase, reportedly to cover a $300,000 deficit.

Salaries for employees make up nearly half of the township's budget.

South Moline Township maintains a mere 8.5 miles of road total. For that, the township's "highway commissioner", Tracy Best earns $25,730 plus health and retirement benefits for working 30 hours a week.

To maintain the 8.5 miles of road in 2006, "$146,254 was budgeted and spent by the road and bridge department, including salaries for workers, road maintenance, vehicle and facility insurance, and employee FICA and retirement", or about $17,206 bucks per mile.

Think some other government body could do it cheaper, say, the county? Or how about contracting someone to do it? Think they could bring it in under $17 grand a mile?

To handle the 8.5 miles of road, Mr. Best has a staff of three full time and one part time employees. Two of them are his sons.

Rose Verstraete, township supervisor, employs her daughter and grandson.

Township assessor John Kiddoo was paid $47,000 for his 30-hour-a-week position and employs his wife as office manager at a salary of $31,158. No one in the office works over 30 hours a week.

Townships do provide essential services, but wouldn't it be far less expensive and redundant to find a way to incorporate the services they provide, at least some of them, into other governmental agencies and entities?

What do you think?

16 Comments:

At 1/22/2007 6:00 AM, Blogger Dave Barrett said...

The Inside Dope,
I salute and admire your courage in addressing this issue. I can think of no proposal more likely to bring massive retribution and retaliation down upon your head than the idea of saving taxpayer's money by eliminating the township level of government.

 
At 1/22/2007 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago there was a guy in McHenry county that made a crusade out of abolishing township governments. I think his name was Anderson, but I'm, not sure. He didn't have any luck, as most of these useless suburban township offices are the breeding grounds of the local party in power.

 
At 1/22/2007 7:57 AM, Anonymous Dr Who said...

Some townships are run very well. I know that some of the rural townships really do provide essential services.

I am outraged that Tracy Best is allowed to hire his sons, and I am similarly dismayed at Rose’s hiring of relations. John Kiddoo also provides a job for his wife, so it seems that there's a real "rotten egg" in our local township government in SM Township.

It certainly appears that South Moline township is the "poster child" for the need of ethical reform in Township Government.

 
At 1/22/2007 8:18 AM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope, I agree that getting rid of township gov't. is long overdue. With the exception of one aspect of townships, it's truly a waste of money. And you and the D/A are correct to suggest that other entities could take up most of what the township gov't does. It's truly amazing to me that Moline Township would have a road/bridge line item in its budget when Moline Township doesn't have any roads or bridges - they're all covered by the city.

I would, however, speak in support of the job John Kiddoo does. While the county automatically takes the stance that if average home sales increase in price by 5%, every property should have its taxes increased by 5%.

Kiddoo takes a different approach by trying to look at the individual property to see what might actually affect its worth; i.e., neighborhood, type of home, enhancements, is that particular type of property actually selling, etc.

I've had several dealings with Kiddoo and he's always treated me fairly. That's not to say he's always seen things my way. But when market values are assigned, he's done a better job than any other assessor has done in the past.

While I don't necessarily agree with his employing his wife as office manager, Kiddoo and his staff are probably the only entities of real value in the South Moline Township office. And no, I'm not related nor could be considered a friend. He and his assistants just do a good job.

On the broader scale, it seems that most of the tax money going to support townships is just for the paying of a bunch of people taking up space in an office to get health and retirement benefits. Where do I apply for a job? Oh, that's right, I can't because I'm not a relative. But I can't do that with the county either, because it's pretty much the same there, too.

 
At 1/22/2007 8:54 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Well Dave, I'm just throwing it out there. Commenters can hash it out.

And besides, after two years of non-stop blackmail, and threats, insults, and thousands of attacks and smears against myself and the blog from asshats of every political stripe, it's no big deal.

I only wish I'd attract a better class of hater. ha!

So... what do people think about the necessity of township government??

 
At 1/22/2007 8:56 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Well Dave, I'm just throwing it out there. Commenters can hash it out.

And besides, after two years of non-stop blackmail, and personal threats, insults, and thousands of attacks and smears against both myself and the blog from asshats of every political stripe, it's no big deal. I must be doing something right.

I only wish I'd attract a better class of hater. ha!

So... what do people think about the necessity of township government??

 
At 1/22/2007 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A guy named Richardson ran a hard-fought campaign to get the abolishment of townships on the ballot years ago as well.

 
At 1/22/2007 9:53 AM, Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

TID, I linked to this discussion. I hope some Proviso Probe readers visit and bend your ear about some of the questionable expenses in Proviso Township.

 
At 1/22/2007 3:37 PM, Anonymous rrrrrxsd said...

Mary Boland is foind a great job running South Moline Township. Look at everything Mike and Mary Boland have accomplished for the people of South Moline.

 
At 1/22/2007 8:51 PM, Blogger Rawk Eyelund said...

Mike Richardson lives in Boston now. I'm thinking of googling him so I can find his contact info and send him a link to this blog.

 
At 1/23/2007 9:28 AM, Anonymous Milton Goldblatt sucks a** said...

Mary Boland is only one township trustee among many, and she's certainly won't find any Boland relative's on staff in SM Township.

I know you get so much anti-Boland crap that some of the misinformation inevetably slips by your guard, but this one's a little too much for me.

Mary Boland is (at least in my mind) the ONLY voice of reason amongst the crown of greedy officials in SM township. Not every one will agree, but I calls 'em as I see's 'em.

 
At 1/23/2007 10:09 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Significant work was done in the 90s to study township govt and get the issue on the ballot.

The first effort in 1990 was the most successful as far as getting enough signatures to file. Over 6,000 RI Voters signed to put the question on the ballot whether to re-authorize, or to discontinue this antiquated form of government. A small but very dedicated cadre of activists did it, led by Mike Richardson and the late Randy Popp. Mike Boland was also supportive- he endorsed the Township Study Group effort and enlisted help from his network. This was one of Mike's finer moments in local politics, fighting the good fight for taxpayers and good government.

There were numerous cases of waste and duplication of services documented in township governments. It was also proven that county government could absorb what few essential services townships provide. Road districts could take over the townships roads in rural area.

The politicians and the pro-township lobby were afraid to face voters and let the people decide. The evidence was not in their favor. And so
the Democratic machine was successful in getting the question tossed off the ballot. Who was behind that? John Gianulis challenged the petition. Bob DeJaegher, who was double dipping that time as Hampton Township Supervisor, was also obviously against the referendum. Lane Evans' people were against the referendum, behind the scenes. Lane was probably out of the loop, actually, because he was doing his job in Washington but his chief of staff Phil Hare was meddling in local politics as always, so they OPPOSED the township petition with Lane's "defacto" stamp of approval. They certainly didn't do anything to help the petition, and several of the Evans organization's closest cronies were on the township payroll, in Blackhawk and in Rock Island Township. And Jacobs was also against the referendum, quite publicly. He would do anything to be on the other side of Boland + his buddy Mel Parker was in the saddle in South Moline Township as Road Commissioner. (Parker got a lot of bad press as such).

So the machine rolled over a lot of grassroots support to re-examine and possibly abolish township government. You know that quote by Margaret Mead about how "a small dedicated group of citizens is the only thing that can change the world"? Well, she has never been to RI County or done battle with the Township Officials of Illinois.

There were a couple subsequent efforts to try the petition but with less success.

A whole book was written about this in the late 90s, by a professor at ISU named Dr. Mike Sublett.

 
At 1/24/2007 2:27 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Nico,
Thanks for such a great background on this issue. Very interesting and informative indeed.

I recall Richardson and was told several years ago that he had passed away. The person who told me this had confused him with Mr. Popp evidently.

A helpful reader recently informed me that Richardson is currently living in the Boston area where he's a freelance writer on politics, election law, nutrition, ethics, and music.

Richardson was also Ralph Nader's national ballot access coordinator in 2004.

 
At 1/25/2007 3:33 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

If we could get national health care, then townships in urban areas would be out of style....

 
At 1/28/2007 8:24 AM, Blogger Milton said...

What is Mike Boland's position on the abolishment of townships? He could write a bill abolishing townships.

Shalom,

--- Leland Milton Goldblatt

 
At 1/30/2007 10:05 AM, Anonymous Uncle Tom said...

Milton . . . What's YOUR position on township government oh exhalted one?

The masses await breathlessly (damn asthma!)

 

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