Momence alderman says he has 'mixed feelings' about reducing number of Illinois townships
The number of township governments in Illinois probably should be reduced, a Momence alderman said, adding that his feelings are not too fixed on the topic.
"I have some mixed feelings on the issue," Momence Alderman John Rehmer told the Kankakee Times. "First, I think that Illinois probably does have too many bodies of government. By consolidating and eliminating some of these many bodies we could probably eliminate inefficient duplication and overlap of services and jurisdictions."
The situation also could stand some streamlining, Rehmer said.
"Streamlining government structure is something we should definitely look at," he said.
Rehmer, who is retired but still substitute teacher at Aquinas Catholic Academy in Momence, was appointed Ward 3 alderman by the City Council in July 2016, following a recommendation of Mayor Mick Porter.
His comments came in the aftermath of a failed amendment to an existing bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would have allowed for a two-year property tax freeze in Illinois counties. Amendment 1 of Senate Bill 851, added to the existing bill Oct. 26 by Illinois State House Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), would have implemented a two-year property tax freeze for Cook and some collar counties while the rest of the state would be left to freeze property taxes via voter referendum.
"This would mean for those townships/road districts in those counties, this year and next year your extension limitation would be 0% unless voters approve an increase," Bryan E. Smith, executive director of Township Officials of Illinois, wrote in an urgent legislative alert. "In all other counties outside of Cook and the Collar Counties, the amendment, if passed, would allow a county board to place a referendum on the ballot in 2018 to have a property tax freeze for all local governments within that county for 2018 and 2019; or whether to have all local governments within the county subject to a property tax freeze for 2018 and 2019 AND then subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) for levy year 2020 and thereafter."
Illinois' units of local government totals about 7,000, more per capita than any other state in the U.S. The state also has the highest overall tax burden in the nation.
SB 851 advanced out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee on Nov. 2 with a recommendation for it to be adopted. On Nov. 8, Amendment 1 as withdrawn by Mussman and, after a short debate, SB 851 passed the House and now is on calendar order of concurrence House amendment.
Rehmer said he can understand why Illinoisans would support a property tax freeze.
"As far as totally freezing property taxes I know that just saying that it could happen gets a quick 'Oh yeah' from a lot of people," Rehmer said. "What they don’t think of is that in doing so they can strangle the legitimate activities of bodies that rely on that revenue. Costs for these bodies don’t stop rising."
Rehmer said he thinks government bodies must economize in whatever ways they can while still providing mandated services.
"Fluff must be cut out as much as possible," he said. "Also alternative revenue services should be considered such as user fees, prorated taxes/fees depending upon the services required by some entities, and again consolidation of effort to eliminate waste and duplication. On the other hand, I cannot fully support completely freezing the ability of government agencies to raise needed funds."