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Gray, Cavanagh discuss Capital Township question
Illinois is notorious for having too many units of government. But a November ballot question may help get rid of one here in Springfield. The Capital Township Board of Trustees put forward a ballot question to merge the township with Sangamon County. Due to the township’s unique structure, there is already considerable overlap in both functions and personnel with the county. Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray and Sangamon County Treasurer Tom Cavanagh, whose jobs serve both the county and the township, spoke with us about the case for consolidation with the county.
Tax savings are the main driver for the move. A consolidated township would save taxpayers well over $500,000 per year. These savings would be returned to taxpayers in the form of a more than 25 percent tax cut. They also highlighted the county’s strong financial position, and the good fiscal management the county has demonstrated over the years.
In addition to the positive case for the county’s proposal, they also countered many of the arguments made by Mayor Langfelder in his bid to have the city take over the township. Property assessment for taxation is one of the main things that Capital Township does. Gray explained that while the county has a plan for assessment, the city has no such plan or the infrastructure to do so. He said creating a new system would be both very difficult and expensive. The county, however, already has these systems. Gray also took issue with Alderman McMenamin’s claim that the proposal was a cash grab by the county. Gray said that if anyone is making a cash grab, it is the city that needs new tax revenue, not the county.
Cavanagh took on the question of road maintenance. Proponents of the Mayor’s proposal say that because the city handles road maintenance in the township, something townships normally handle, the city has a stronger case to take over the other functions. But while Cavanagh admitted the city does handle the roads, he pointed out that Capital Township never dealt with road maintenance, and so it is really a non issue. He went on to say that Capital Township is different even from other coterminous townships, and so other examples are often not “apples to apples” comparisons on what should happen here.
The Ballot Question
The township’s question will be appearing on the November 6th ballot. It is a non-binding advisory question. Only Capital Township residents will be able to vote on the question. Cavanagh stressed that while the question is to merge with the county, the referendum was pushed by the township, not the county. The mayor’s question will not appear on the November ballot because the Springfield City Council declined to endorse it.
Even though there is support in both the township and the county for the merger, it will still need some legislative support from the General Assembly. Fortunately, there is already bipartisan support lined up to help eliminate redundant units of government. Because the township and the county both support merging with the county, it is unclear what impact the Mayor’s proposed referendum in April may have on the process.
You can watch our full interview in the player above. You can also learn about the mayor’s competing question here.
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