Crystal Lake Fire District president says all counties should be allowed to dissolve townships
Kevin Sarnwick, president of the Crystal Lake Rural Fire Protection District, said he is skeptical of the benefits of a potential new law allowing McHenry County to dissolve its 17 townships.
In an email interview with the McHenry Times, Sarnwick called HB 4637 (which passed both the House and Senate) “worthwhile” but faulted the bill because of its narrow focus on McHenry County only.
“With this proposed bill, the benefit is to a few selected interested people and not to everyone (in) the state,” Sarnwick said. “This is focused legislation and not, in my opinion, proper. Make this same bill, but make it applicable throughout the state.”
Under the township system, localities can levy taxes to support police and firefighters, sewage treatment and bus lines, among other projects. But some critics have said the township system is part of the problem with high taxes in Illinois.
According to an article published on CMAP, townships can create inequitable tax burdens. “Some residents with lower ability to pay have higher tax burdens,” the report said.
Sarnwick said based on his experience serving on a township board a few years ago, a township’s main responsibility should be to “distribute public assistance money.”
“Most others matters that the township trustees handled involved maintaining the township,” he said. “These matters included making a levy and paying the bills to keep the township running.”
But he also said county government might better handle the Road District’s function.
“In the case of the Road District, oversight by the county would be able to eliminate the wasteful spending and (the) high salary of the road commissioner,” he said. “Yes, a manager would be needed at each local road district office, but not at the selfishly high wage of a self-governing road commissioner.”
Likewise, the Township Assessor’s Office should be reassigned from township control to county control., he said.
“Let the county deal directly with the township assessor, since they are the departments that now work together as a team,” Sarnwick said.
As for dissolving the townships just in McHenry County, Sarnwick offered an alternative plan.
“Make a statewide statute that allows citizens dissolve a township,” he said. “Make road district commissioners responsible to someone, either a board or the county. And, put the local assessor's office under the jurisdiction of the county, not a township.”