Supervisors of five townships in the metro-east earned an average annual salary of $48,617 in 2017, according to records recently added to the Belleville News-Democrat’s Public Pay Database.
Supervisors of those townships, some of the largest by population in the metro-east, earned the following annual wages:
- Collinsville Township: Terry Allan, $67,637;
- St. Clair Township: Dave Barnes Sr., $56,109;
- Venice Township: Andrew Economy, $45,402;
- Stookey Township: David Bone, $37,586;
- Granite City Township: Robert Shipley, $36,349.
The database can be found at https://bit.ly/2wIyrlc.
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Townships were written into the 1848 Illinois Constitution as a way for residents in unincorporated areas to make sure their public service needs were met. They could organize a level of local government that would perform all the duties residents in cities enjoy, like road maintenance or trash pickup.
Employee salaries make up a bulk of township budgets. Collinsville Township paid the most in salaries at $1.3 million for 38 employees, while Venice Township came in at the bottom with $347,843 in salary expenses for 19 employees. Granite City Township paid $782,483 for 43 employees, St. Clair Township paid $783,531 for 25 employees and Stookey Township paid $434,920 in salaries for 22 employees.
Street and highway maintenance made up nearly 56 percent of expenditures in Collinsville township, while administrative costs made up roughly 33 percent, according to the Illinois Comptroller.
Trustees in those townships earned varying amounts, from $9,418 in Venice Township to $3,066 in St. Clair Township. Board members in Granite City Township earned $1,140, trustees in Collinsville Township earned up to $6,963 and those in Stookey Township earned up to $5,306.
Some criticize township government
Some have criticized townships as a form of local government, saying they are an unnecessary layer of government in Illinois that adds to residents’ property tax burden. There are 1,432 townships in Illinois, according to the comptroller.
Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research for the Illinois Policy Institute, says townships are especially redundant when they have roughly the same boundaries as municipalities, such as the former Belleville Township.
“Coterminous townships could easily be consolidated with the city they sit on top of without leading to any loss of services,” Schuster said. “(Voters) should have the right to decide whether they can keep that form of government or not.”
Collinsville Township Supervisor Terry “Bones” Allan says his township maintains roads in Collinsville, Maryville and parts of Glen Carbon.
“Anybody that you could talk to knows how good of work our road and bridge guys do,” Allan said, adding it would be difficult to eliminate the township because “we got too many municipalities in one township.”
Abolishing some townships on 2018 election ballot
But voters in Alton and Godfrey townships will be asked on their Nov. 6 ballot if they want to eliminate the townships. Both are close in borders to their larger municipal counterparts. In Godfrey, the village board is made up of the same people as the township board.
Townships could benefit rural areas where township services couldn’t be easily absorbed by a nearby city, Schuster said, but otherwise, he said townships are “duplicative layer of government.”
“There’s more of an argument to be made for the rural areas,” Schuster said. “Certainly when it’s overlapping with another form of government, it’s harder to justify.”
Terry Seymour, supervisor of Godfrey Township, said he hopes voters will make an “informed decision” at the ballot box about the township.
“Townships are the most efficient form of government in the state of Illinois, period,” Seymour said. “Why would you want to dissolve something that’s actually working that doesn’t seem to be costing very much?”
What townships do
Godfrey Township provides general assistance and emergency assistance to support those in need of financial aid and who are not eligible for other state or federal assistance programs. The village of Godfrey is expected to assume those responsibilities if voters decide to dissolve the township, Seymour said. If voters decide to dissolve the township, it would cease to exist on May 15 next year, Seymour said.
In 2017, the township spent $52,567 on welfare and $105,158 on salaries for two full-time employees and nine part-time employees, according to the Illinois Comptroller. The township collected $188,506 in property taxes from just less than 18,000 residents.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill last year making it easier to consolidate neighboring townships and coterminous townships. The law requires a municipality to pick up the powers and duties of the township to avoid a loss of service.
Another bill (HB 4637) would allow for grassroots groups to initiate consolidation ballot referendums. If signed into law, a petition signed by 5 percent of the voters in a district could initiate a consolidation referendum. The bill did not move out of the House during the last legislative session, but could be considered again as soon as January, Schuster said.
The BND’s Public Pay Database goes back to 2011 with information obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The salary information does not always include insurance or benefits. Some records include detailed information on overtime and other pay, while for some districts that information was not readily available.