Evanston alderman testifies before state task force on government consolidation


Daily file photo by Lan Nguyen

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) testified Monday before a state task force on government consolidation.

Peter Kotecki, Reporter

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) spoke about the dissolution of Evanston Township as an example for the rest of the state when she testified Monday before an Illinois task force on local government consolidation.

The dissolution of Evanston Township abolished the organization and transferred its responsibilities to the city, leading to lower administrative costs and improvements in services to Evanston residents, Grover said. However, there was no clear path in Illinois law to dissolve Evanston Township, she said.

“Not only was there conflict between the Illinois Constitution and the township code, but there was little clarity about how it should happen — and certainly very little recent precedent,” Grover said.

Grover testified before a task force overseen by Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti that aims to reduce the burden on taxpayers by streamlining local governments.

In March 2012, City Council voted for dissolution in a non-binding referendum as well as a binding referendum two years later. Evanston-specific state legislation was then created and sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) to allow the dissolution.

Although the Evanston-specific legislation did not affect the 19 other townships that share boundaries with cities in Illinois, the townships of Belleville and Peoria are initiating processes toward consolidation as well, Grover said.

“Evanston was not only testing the waters for Evanston but testing the waters for many other township organizations,” she said. “There will be additional movement on the township landscape in the state.”

The dissolution of Evanston Township was only the third time in Illinois history, and the first time since 1932, that voters chose to dissolve a township. The Evanston vote resulted in a rearrangement of traditional township services, as responsibilities for general assistance and emergency programs were transferred to the Health and Human Services Department and responsibilities for property tax assessment advising services were transferred to the Administrative Services Department.

Grover said Evanston is still in the process of transitioning township services to city services, but noted there have been significant cost savings since Evanston Township was dissolved.

“We are able to do more for more people with no net increase in cost to the taxpayers but rather a net decrease in those costs,” she said.

Sanguinetti anticipates the task force to compile a report with specific policy and legislative recommendations and send it to Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly by the end of 2015.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the aftermath of the City Council referendums. After the binding vote, Evanston-specific legislation was created to allow the township’s dissolution. The Daily regrets the error.

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