Township Consolidation: Show Me the Money
Kevin Craver’s article in Sunday’s Northwest Herald carries the provocative title “All Eyes Will Be on County GOP for Township Consolidation Effort”. If the purpose of a lead is to get a person to read the story, it served his purpose.
I have no argument with him when he says:
“That’s where this new leadership of the McHenry County Republican Party may come in handy, if it’s honest about its goal of advancing fiscal conservatism…If some County Board members throw wrenches into the process to save a fiefdom or save a relative on a township payroll, hopefully the party finds strong candidates to give their sorry behinds a primary challenge. If our representatives in Springfield cave to pressure from townships and their attorneys to try to change the law to protect townships from consolidation, give their sorry behinds a primary challenger, too.”
However, it’s premature to start focusing on politics until there’s more information to support the assumption that by consolidating, we’d end up with less government and in the process save a lot of money. This assumption has been voiced so many times that it’s being treated as truth. The fact is, we just don’t know.
A group called McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation is advocating for a reduction in the number of McHenry County townships from 17 to 8. The group’s website says the following about cost savings:
“We are still gathering data that will provide a clearer understanding (of) Township finances in McHenry County. Based on our preliminary findings, expected savings from Township Consolidation will be in excess of forty million dollars over ten years.” (emphasis mine)
The above statement is too full of caveats to be accepted at face value. If the group has findings, preliminary or not, that indicate a saving of forty million dollars, then put those preliminary findings out on the website for all of us to see. The burden is upon those who’d change the system to show us that it will do what they say.
The reason we have so many units of government is that (capital G) Government wasn’t doing its job in the first place. Money was being robbed from Peter to pay Paul (cough, Pensions, cough), and the only way to stop it was to establish separate bodies, giving them authority to levy and administer functions that the people thought were necessary. If those functions are now unnecessary, that’s fine, fold them into other bodies or, better yet, get rid of them.
But remember that the further away from the people that you move a function of government, the less accountable are those to whom that function is given. Will we go through this only to discover that we’ve come full circle back to what gave us the problem in the first place?
I’ll be first in line to advocate for eliminating units of government if by doing so it saves money and we end up with less government. But if all you want is consolidation for its own sake, if doing so will simply result in pieces being moved around the chess board, creating new power centers and opportunities for political featherbedding, count me out.
Kevin does a nice job of describing the food fight that went on over Grafton’s bid for a new township hall. But I’m not sure how that translates into a call for consolidation. In our local production of Animal Farm, Grafton will certainly be one of the players that’ll be more equal than the others after the dust settles. They’d probably use consolidation to justify an even larger township building.
The headline says one thing, the point of the article is something else. We need to be in possession of all the facts, and at this point we’re not.