Is your Illinois township worth its size and payroll?

Mar 15, 2017

 

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With nearly 7,000 units of local government in Illinois, it can be difficult for residents to keep track of them all. Townships are one level of government that often goes unnoticed, yet they represent and tax a significant portion of people living in Illinois. There are over 1,400 townships in the state, representing over 9 million people.

 Illinois gives counties the ability to create and organize townships within them, as well as eliminate or consolidate them through countywide ballot referenda. 85 out of Illinois’ 102 counties have townships, with an average of 17 townships per participating county. The City of Chicago was previously part of multiple townships, but voted to eliminate them in 1902 through a referendum.townships

Townships are responsible for assessing local property values, which provide an important calculation for the local property tax levy each year. Townships also provide a variety of public services, including public safety, environmental protection, public transportation, health, recreation, libraries, and social services for seniors and others in need.

In addition, townships maintain 53% (71,000 miles) of roads in Illinois. Some townships include Road Districts, which maintain infrastructure and are run by townships employees. Each township is governed by a Township Board, which consists of a minimum of one supervisor and four trustees elected at-large.

 An August 2016 Chicago Tribune article noted that there are 19 “coterminous” townships in Illinois, where a municipality and a township share the same borders, but keep separate municipal and township governments.

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Last month, ICPR reported on annual payroll expenditures in Illinois counties. This week, ICPR’s research team looked at similar data provided by the Illinois comptroller for all Illinois townships. Because the state has over 1,400 townships, and they differ greatly in size and responsibility, averages should be considered as simply a reference point in a large and widely varying dataset.

Townships have an average of 16 employees each, only 23% of whom, on average, are full-time employees. Each Illinois township spends an average of $21 on annual payroll per each individual township resident each year. In our analysis of county government, we found that Illinois counties spend an average of $224 on annual payroll per individual county resident. 

Township employee salaries may come from sources other than general tax revenue. Compared to counties, township employees  are much more likely to be part-time workers. Townships also spend less “per resident” toward overall employee payroll than most Illinois counties.

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Conclusion

In Illinois, many townships serve to represent residents of unincorporated rural areas, who some argue are not always given priority in other levels of government. Conversely, some townships can create another layer of government that can be costly to taxpayers who are already receiving services elsewhere. While townships can sometimes be overlooked by residents, they are an important part of Illinois government in many areas of the state.

The charts provided above are intended to give a snapshot of our data about townships. ICPR used data on every township in Illinois that provides required financial data to the Illinois Comptroller in producing this report. To request more information about your township, feel free to email our Political Data Director, Colin Williams, with your township’s name and county. He can be reached at colin@ilcampaign.org.

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