Township Governments Sit on Piles of Cash ...

They're like Frankenstein, they never go away, one commissioner says

By Steve Rhodes
|  Friday, Nov 27, 2009  |  Updated 5:44 PM CDT
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Township Governments Sit on Piles of Cash ...

Money, money, money, money.

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At least one layer of government in Illinois isn't having budget problems. According to a joint investigation by the Better Government Association and ABC7, townships are sitting on loads of cash.

Take south suburban Thornton Township: It has a reserve fund of almost $14 million.

"This is truly outrageous to have money sitting in a bank that we've paid in taxes at a time when homes are being foreclosed on, people are out of work, they can't pay their bills, they can't send their kids to school, they can't buy clothes for their children and yet tax dollars that they work hard for are sitting in accounts and not being used," says BGA chief Andy Shaw.

Township governments have long been both a mystery to much of the public and the bane of good government and taxpayer advocates. The townships are supposed to provide aid to the poor and maintain roads in unincorporated areas. But this being Illinois, township governments are often as not patronage havens that drain taxpayer pocketbooks while providing shoddy services.

For example, the BGA-ABC7 report cites Stickney Township, where it takes eight employees, "countless contract workers," and $1.2 million in taxpayer money to maintain nine miles of roads.

And Stickney Township pays out just 2 percent of its budget on aid to the poor, but 39 percent on employee salaries. It also has $8.5 million in reserve.

Surely the duties of townships could be transferred to other units of government. But this is Illinois.

"Once these units of government are created, they're like Frankenstein, they never go away," Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica told ABC7.

And like Dracula, they keep sucking our blood for their own nourishment and survival. Yet another Illinois horror story.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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