On Nov. 6, Sangamon County voters overwhelmingly approved
consolidating Capital Township with the county.
In April, Springfield city voters will be asked the same question.
But neither of their votes will eliminate a layer of government that largely
shares Springfield’s city limits, performs limited public service and collected
$2 million in property taxes in 2017. Sangamon County leaders need to act to
eliminate Capital Township.
The ballot question Tuesday read, “Shall Capital Township pursue a full merger
with Sangamon County?”
The township’s borders are virtually identical to that of the city of
Springfield. By eliminating an unnecessary layer of government, consolidating
Capital Township could generate taxpayer savings. The proposal appeared as an
advisory referendum, meaning that while it required a smaller number of
signatures to land a spot on the ballot, the result is nonbinding.
The advisory question precedes a similar referendum set to appear on April 2019
ballots in the city of Springfield, asking voters whether to consolidate the
Capital Township with the city. Because neither question is binding, both
proposals may pass independently.
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If county leaders act on the consolidation measure, Sangamon County will absorb
the township’s three primary duties: property assessment, road maintenance and
general aid. The county treasurer already serves as Capital Township supervisor
Unfortunately for taxpayers, local government
consolidation is often an uphill climb. As it stands now, to get a
binding consolidation referendum onto a ballot, voters need a
petition signed by 10 percent of registered voters from each
township in the county. It’s an unnecessarily burdensome task – but
a worthwhile one, especially for overburdened taxpayers.
For example, the typical Springfield homeowner’s property tax
dollars flow to 10 different units of local government. The property
tax bill for a house in Springfield selling at about $127,000 – near
the median home value – was more than $2,600 in 2017. While the
amount flowing to Capital Township is relatively low, 1.1 percent of
the bill, those savings would bring welcome change to a tax bill
that’s far too high.
Unnecessary and duplicative layers of local government are
significant driver of Illinoisans’ high property tax bills. By
dissolving Capital Township, taxpayers would set an important
precedent for consolidating Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of
government – the highest count of any state in the nation – and
creating a path toward relief.
In the meantime, there are a number of reforms state lawmakers can
pursue to bring down Sangamon County residents’ high property tax
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