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.
Langfelder remains confident in his Township merger question
Springfield is on its way to eliminating a unit of government. Capital Township, which is coterminous with the City of Springfield, is moving towards consolidation. Currently, Sangamon County is trying to get the township to merge with the county. But Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder is pushing the effort for the township to be merged into the city.
The County’s effort had strong momentum going for it before the election. Both the township board and the county have approved the merger. To further solidify their mandate, they put a non-binding question on the November 6th ballot. That question asked if the county and township should pursue a full merger. The effort passed with 75 percent support, or 31,800 votes.
Despite the progress the County’s effort is making, Langfelder still thinks the city should take over the township. He remains confident that voters will support his ballot question. But that support will have to come in two parts. Because the Springfield City Council declined to endorse his question, Langfelder will need signatures to get on the April ballot at all, in addition to getting votes on Election Day.
Republicans Davis and LaHood hold onto congressional seats
Both Congressmen who serve the Springfield area retained their seats last night. Darin LaHood (R-18) and Rodney Davis (R-13) will be going back to Washington DC. LaHood had a decisive victory with 67.5 percent of the vote against Democrat Junius Rodriguez who took 32.5 percent. Davis had a much closer race. He won out over Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan by a margin of just 3,700 votes.
But Illinois Congressional races generally went towards the Democrats. The 6th District went to Sean Casten over Republican incumbent Peter Roskam. Lauren Underwood came out over Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 14th. These races were part of the Democrats retaking of the US House of Representatives. Illinois now has 13 Democratic and 5 Republican Congressional Representatives.
Even in the races they won, Republicans have reasons to be concerned. LaHood received 57,000 fewer votes in his rematch against Rodriguez than he did in 2016. Rodriguez’s total dropped just 3,000 votes. Davis faced a similar situation. Where the Democrats actually gained 5,000 votes in the 13th, Davis’ total declined by 52,000.
While a win is a win, even these high points of last night’s election should be worrying to the Illinois Republican Party.
Sales tax and township consolidation propositions pass
In addition to the candidates running for office, there were several questions on the ballot for voters in Sangamon County. One question was if Capital Township should be consolidated with Sangamon County. The other was if there should be a one percent sales tax to help schools pay for facility improvements.
Both questions passed. The township question passed handily with 75 percent of the vote. The sales tax was approved much more narrowly, 53 to 47 percent.
Because it was a non-binding question, the township vote will do nothing by itself. It will, however, strengthen the case for the county and township to consolidate.
The sales tax referendum was a binding question, and will go into effect July of 2019. It is expected to raise about $10 million for District 186, and another $10 million for other districts in Sangamon County.