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City tables Capital Township question

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Capital Township is coterminous with the City of Springfield

One less question will likely be showing up on the November ballot. Last night, the Springfield City Council voted to table a proposed referendum to have Capital Township dissolved into the City of Springfield. Capital Township is coterminous with the city, so they cover the same area. Because of the overlap, many of the functions a township would normally carry out are done by the city, and several township positions are held by their county counterparts.

There is a wider push in Illinois to consolidate units of government. The few remaining coterminous townships like Capital Township are prime targets for this movement. If fact, the city’s question was very similar to one posed by Sangamon County. Their question would have the township dissolved into the county. This similarity lead to some concerns. Aldermen Redpath said that although the questions are non-binding, they might be confusing to voters since only one could actually be implemented. Alderwoman Turner countered this objection, saying it was critical that voters have multiple options on what she referred to as an issue with strong political overtones.

Other aldermen had issue with the non-binding element of the question. By statute, there are ways for a city to dissolve a coterminous township. Aldermen Donelan said that if the city wants to dissolve the township, it should do it the right way. Aldermen Theilen echoed this sentiment, saying he was opposed to non-binding referendums as a general principle.

Concerns about potential cost were also raised and addressed. Director McCarty said that because the taxing authority for the township will still be present if the township was dissolved, taxes should not go up as a result. But, because the overhead of the township could be consolidated with another body, taxpayers should see some saving from the move.

In the end, the council voted 7-3 against moving the issue out of committee. Alders Turner, DiCenso, and McMenamin voted to move to the question forward.  The vote to table the issue passed 6-4. Because it takes a supermajority to take an issue off the table, three aldermen would need to change their votes to bring the issue back up. However, this is not necessarily the end of the issue. A proposal done “the right way” to dissolve the township into the city could still be brought forward, or some aldermen could change their stance and un-table this question.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

2018 Election

Sangamon County city leaders endorse Jack Campbell for Sheriff

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photo from Jack Campbell's Facebook

Sponsored | Elected leaders from more than a dozen Sangamon County communities have endorsed former Undersheriff Jack Campbell’s bid for Sheriff, his campaign announced Wednesday.

In all, 21 mayors and village presidents from across Sangamon County endorsed Campbell, who is seeking to return to the Sheriff’s Office after spending the length of his 24-year law enforcement career there.

Campbell, who withdrew last year from consideration for U.S. Marshal to run for the office, said he hopes the endorsements will translate into Sangamon County voters giving him and the mayors and village presidents the chance to work together on their behalf.

“Collaboration, along with accountability and modernization, has been a pillar in my campaign,” Campbell told the Springfield Daily. “I’m glad to know so many local leaders throughout Sangamon County know they would have me as a partner in protecting their communities.”

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office serves as the primary law enforcement agency for communities without their own police officers.

If elected Sheriff, Campbell said he hopes to meet regularly with local law enforcement leaders within their communities to allow for public town hall meetings. He said these meetings had been held at the Sheriff’s Office, but that relocating them would open a new line a dialogue between the public and its chief law enforcement officer.

Those mayors and village presidents endorsing Campbell are:

Tom Berola, Auburn
Ted Stead, Jr., Cantrall
Dave Kimsey, Chatham
Paul “Dee” Smith, Dawson
Jim Copelin, Divernon
Louis Ochs, Jr. of Grandview
Sam Rogers of Illiopolis
Jill Egizii of Leland Grove
Alan Mann of Loami
Robert Van Pelt, Mechanicsburg
Michael Krall, New Berlin
Jeff Clarke, Pawnee
Darrell Blair, Pleasant Plains
Tom Rader, Riverton
Joe Suerdieck, Rochester
Trevor Clatfelter, Sherman
Nora Petrosky, Southern View
Brian Cuffle, Spaulding
Rob McMahan, Thayer
Tom Yokley, Williamsville

Sponsored article by Jack Campbell for Sheriff.

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2018 Election

Gray, Cavanagh discuss Capital Township question

Thomas Clatterbuck

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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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2019 Election

Langfelder, McMenamin discuss the Capital Township question

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Illinois is notorious for having too many units of government. Capital Township, which is coterminous with the City of Springfield, is widely considered obsolete. Local leaders are working to abolish the township, a move which should save taxpayers nearly $500,000 per year. But questions remain on what is to become of the township’s functions once it is dissolved. One proposal is to merge the township with the county. Supporters of this proposal point to the several county officials who also perform roles for the township. This question will appear on the November 6th ballot.

However, not everyone thinks that the county should take over the township. Mayor Jim Langfelder and Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin agree that the township should be dissolved, but they think the city should take over the remaining township functions. Normally, a townships’ primary function is to deal with roads. But because Capital Township is coterminous, or lies wholly within, the City of Springfield, it has no roads to take care of. The city takes care of the roads.

The other main function of the township handles is economic development. Langfelder pointed out that while the county could perform this function, it makes much more sense for the city to handle issues that will impact its community directly. Springfield may be the largest city in Sangamon County, but the County Board represents the numerous smaller communities in the county. The Springfield City Council, however, only represents the city, and is better positioned to assist local economic needs. McMenamin went on to say that the city should be the ones decided what taxes are levied and what money are spent. He likened it to letting Indiana making decision for Illinois. McMenamin also pointed out that when coterminous townships are dissolved, they are typically dissolved into their municipality, not their county.

The ballot questions

In November, township residents will see the county’s plan to give the township to the county on the ballot. Because this is a non-binding question, the results of the vote will only be informative to the county and township board. Similarly, the proposed question by Mayor Langfelder is also non-binding and will also have no effect on its own.

Because the city council declined to put the city’s question on the ballot, voters will first need to sign the a petition to get the question on the April 2019 ballot. Langfelder will need at least 3,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but the final number of signatures they need will not be known until after the November election. Supporters of the mayor’s position are currently passing petitions, and their efforts are expected to pick up after the November election. Only voters in the township can sign the petition.

No matter what results the ballot questions bring back, the Township will still need need to vote to absolve itself. The township has already agreed to absolve itself to the county, but Langfelder cautioned that this was possibly due to the officials who overlap between the county and the township. And the county would still need approval from the state to take over the township because it is coterminous with a municipality.

You can watch our full interview with Langfelder and McMenamin in the player below. We apologize that the audio is not up to our normal standards.

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