Merger of River Forest township and village government proposed

State Rep. Welch plans legislation backed by President Adduci

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By Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

River Forest voters may soon have the chance to decide at the ballot box if River Forest Township government ought to be merged into the village government.

State Rep. Chris Welch (D.-7th) will introduce legislation this week in Springfield which – if passed – would allow such a vote in the name of reducing the number of government units and making government more efficient.

Village President Catherine Adduci supports the effort and has, in fact, been talking to Welch since last fall about ways to lower local property taxes. The initiative on township government came from those discussions.

Local township officials said they would make the case for retaining township government if the measure reached the ballot.

Consolidating both entities would mean that the village, after a transition period of undetermined length at this point, would administer all programs and services currently handled by the township and assume oversight of all township assets, including the Community Center. The role of the township elected officials also would end.

It is uncertain when or if the legislation – modeled after a bill allowing for the consolidation last year of Evanston city and township governments – would be approved by both houses of the General Assembly.

But if it is agreed to in Springfield and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, River Forest trustees would have to approve an ordinance placing the question on the ballot. That measure could appear on the November general election ballot, but Welch said in an interview late last week that placing it on the ballot in April 2015 would allow plenty of time for the proposition to be explained to voters,

"This bill will be targeted at reducing the layers of government that aren't necessary," Welch said. "It would not diminish services; it would enhance them because the village will add additional revenue to pay for programs that already exist. Less government is better."

The boundaries of the village and the township are the same. River Forest Township provides services for seniors and youth, as well as mental health, and general assistance. An assessor, aids residents with property tax concerns. Elected officials for the township include a supervisor, assessor, clerk and four trustees. Mental health and general assistance are administered by one person, who is not elected. The township's budget for the fiscal year that ended March 31 was $551,818, with almost all of the revenue coming from local property taxes.

The township's elected officials also serve as the board of managers of the Civic Center Authority, which operates the community center at Madison Street and Thatcher. If village and township government were merged it is uncertain at this point what would happen to the civic center authority.

Adduci said this is a good bill for several reasons.

"It will give the voters a voice to choose to combine a unit of local government. It will streamline services. If it passes it gives us the opportunity to eliminate duplication of administrative services and save taxpayers money. This will be good for River Forest," Adduci said.

Township Supervisor Carla Sloan said while she was aware that this legislation was brewing, she said the township is still in the early stages of understanding what its course of action will be.

"Trustees oppose the elimination of the township and we will work to preserve it," she said. "The township provides a wide range of services. We do it efficiently, and we do a good job at what we do."

The General Assembly last year overwhelmingly approved the Evanston legislation. A referendum will be on the ballot this March 18, said Erika Storlie, Evanston's deputy city manager.

 

HB 4425 Rep. Chris Welch

Reader Comments

22 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Al from RF  

Posted: January 29th, 2014 2:17 PM

I just read HB4425. Kudos to Adduci and Welch for this one.

Matt  

Posted: January 29th, 2014 12:02 PM

Waiting I have the same worries. I remember in the last 10 years or so that a serious discussion came up at an OP Village board meeting as to whether or not they could make changes to the OP Library budget that they were to transmit to the County. Given the Village's many budgetary woes I would be very worried of those services being cut or pushed onto other groups in order to cushion short comings in other departments. If the Township can manage their money and services well why punish them?

Waiting to see  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 6:46 PM

I can't speak for RF, but I think Oak Park voters would be very suspicious that a merger would keep the same level of service as a specific, dedicated entity for OP Township. They do important work for seniors and teens that I'd be afraid gets neglected at village hall. Maybe "neglected" is the wrong word, but the village already has too much on its plate as it is.

Bill D  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 6:33 PM

The local papers covered ElSaffsr's plans to run for County Assessor, WTSP2. But he's a realist, and saw that he'd get steamrolled by a well-connected sleazeball like Joe Berrios. Your opinion is yours to have, but back it up with facts. The OP township one of the best run, most fiscally responsible and effective townships in the state. Doesn't mean it can't be done another way. What I'm saying is, let's not put Tea Party dogma glasses on while pondering this challenge. It's not that simple.

RF Achievement from River Forest  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 6:20 PM

Consolidation does not mean cutting services...it means saving on overhead cost. Do we really need to pay our elected officials who DO NOT administer the programs. The township has professionals who administer the programs the elected official do not. I saw stop paying for unnecessary government. Keep the programs but cut the overhead.

Barb Smith from River Forest  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 4:56 PM

Helping the needy is not going to be the priority of those who are elected on a platform of cutting government spending. The township board has also had the benefit of professionals and people with experience in social service programs.

waiting to see part 2 from oak park  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 4:17 PM

Maybe Ali Elsaffar should run for Assessor for Cook County then. Consolidating two bodies of government will drive efficiency and effective government including reduce spending. Look at your recent tax bill, can we continue to spend like we do on government services.

Waiting to see  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 3:47 PM

As an OPer, I'm not opposed to combining the township with the village, but it would matter how it's done. It would need to be a merger where township services are kept or even expanded. I fear it would be an excuse by some to make cuts. If that's the case, I'm in favor of keeping the two bodies.

Bill D  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 3:25 PM

Will be interesting to see how this idea plays in Oak Park. One size doesn't fit all with this. While some township governments are used as patronage organizations, and/or are inefficient or redundant, Oak Park's has proven itself to be a stellar example of how to provide needed services without being fiscally irresponsible. In fact, it routinely lends it expertise and staffing to other townships, including River Forest and Berwyn. And you won't find a finer township assessor than Ali Elsaffar.

John Talbot from Oak Park  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 2:23 PM

I just read this article in Sunday's Sun Times by Andy Shaw. Thought it was timely since the BGA calls for Springfield to begin trimming the fat of government and start with the 1,400 townships we have. Congratulations to River Forest for figuring it out already. Now, its Oak Park's turn. Check out this article. http://www.suntimes.com/news/bga/25132409-452/watchdog-to-do-list-for-2014.html

Mike from Oak Park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 9:14 PM

Anan should look at this consolidation bill. I hope Sen Harmon and Rep. Lilly are watching this and supports this...this is truly good government

RF long time resident from River Forest  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 6:19 PM

I agree that this would be good for our community. The Township budget is accessible by a FOIA request, it would show the salaries and monies spent by our township. The Township does not post it on their website.

Wizard of Oz from River Forest  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:21 PM

I read that government should simplify our lives not complicate it. With 8 taxing bodies in RF....YES 8 taxing bodies...that does sound like simplification? It sounds complicated with MORE politics especially with paid elected officials. Is there any other elected officials that are paid in RF??

RF Achievement from River Forest  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:05 PM

@Dan...you are kidding. I know what our Village does and they do a darn good job at it. NO politics or bureaucracy..... What does the township do? BTW, the supervisor, clerk and Assessor all get paid adding more cost and taxes. Townships have to go...they are old and outdated form of government.

Alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 4:59 PM

Welsh finally got it right when he said, "LESS GOVERNMENT IS BETTER".

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 4:55 PM

Township trustees are paid the same amount as village trustees: nothing, nada, zero, zilch.

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 4:54 PM

Let's not jump to conclusions until we see some actual, realistic analysis of potential savings. This proposal generates savings only if it eliminates paid positions -- and I'm not sure it will. Given the state of village government, we may be better off with separate township government, particularly the township assessor whom I think the village government would stifle and crush with its politics and bureaucracy. Let's get some facts before deciding whether the township should be eliminated.

Future Library Board Member  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 4:27 PM

How much do the township trustees make? It seems like since the services will still be offered the main savings will be from not having these dead weight elected officials around anymore

curious girl  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 4:22 PM

If the budget is 550,000 and the services are still going to be offered, I wonder what the net savings will ultimately be? Can the reporter or anyone answer that? The idea is a fine one, but I wonder if it will really change a tax bill.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 4:21 PM

A couple of years ago, we eliminated the outmoded office of the Cicero Township Trustees of Schools and gave money to the actual school districts. That proved that government bodies do not have to be forever. To the extent that RF and OP Townships do not cover multiply communities, it would seem to make sense to merge them with municipalities.

Bill D  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 2:29 PM

Great idea by Adduci and others. Since RF already outsources much of its senior and youth services to OP Township, this makes sense. As for Rep. Welch, nice to see him deign to talk with River Forest elected officials on key issues. That's a refreshing change from his attitude as D209 school board president, when he didn't bother to even inform RF or Forest Park officials until the last minute regarding a 3-day festival at Proviso East that cost Cook County and RF tens of thousands of dollars.

RF Achievement from River Forest  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 1:38 PM

It is about time! We need to eliminate unnecessary layers of government. Illinois has the largest number of units of government in the US. I am glad to see our leadership tackle this issue on behave the taxpayers. How much more tax dollars do we need to waste until Springfield wakes up. I hope the General Assembly will pass this legislation overwhelmingly too

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