Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed a bill allowing the Belleville Township board to vote on whether to dissolve the 130-year-old township in an effort to save money for taxpayers.
The legislation, which had bipartisan support in Springfield, permits the dissolution of the township without a vote of the residents. The township covers the same area as the city of Belleville and the bill calls for the city to take over the township’s responsibility of assisting needy individuals.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, introduced House Bill 3693, which lawmakers approved by wide margins.
The township was founded in 1885 and gives general assistance to individuals who do not qualify for other types of government aid. Recipients typically receive $245 a month in gift cards to discount stores or help in paying rent.
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The law went into effect Thursday.
Trustee Joy Schreiber supports the move to dissolve the township to save money.
“Less than a fourth of our spending for the year, according to the audit, was spent on our one and only duty which is the general assistance,” Schreiber said.
The township’s audit for the fiscal year that ended March 31states, “Governmental activities cost $448,691 this year. Of this amount, $83,798 was paid directly to participants applying for assistance under the state regulated program. Other public service and safety programs used $89,644.”
The next regular meeting for the township will be Tuesday and Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook, who also serves as the township’s clerk, has asked that a possible vote on the dissolution of the township be placed on the agenda.
Cook, who has been a vocal supporter of dissolving the township, called the governor’s action “historic.”
“I think that other communities around the state need to look at this as an example of a way to better administer the taxpayers’ funds,” Cook said.
Schreiber said she would like to see the five-member township board fill a vacancy on the board before voting on the dissolution of the township. Former Trustee Joyce Laux recently resigned from the board for health reasons.
If the township board votes to dissolve the township, the Belleville City Council would have to pass an ordinance accepting the township’s responsibilities, Cook said.
Trustee Joe Swierczek previously has said he supports dissolution, while Trustee Joe Hubbard and Supervisor Dennis Korte have not announced a position on the issue. Neither Hubbard nor Korte could be reached for comment Thursday.
Rauner did not release a statement about the bill he signed Thursday. Earlier this year, Rauner’s spokeswoman said the governor “is supportive of local government consolidation and reform, because it helps give taxpayers a better value for their money.”
“This new law is a common-sense reform that will help reduce costs by making local government more efficient,” Hoffman said in a news release.
“Illinois has more units of local government than any other state, so it’s no surprise we also have some of the highest property taxes in the country,” Hoffman said. “This bill shows a bipartisan commitment to ensuring government services are delivered efficiently and effectively.”
State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, joined as a co-sponsor in the House and Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, was the Senate sponsor.