Editorials

Townships are a form of welfare — for government employees

Granite City Township cost taxpayers $1.6 million in 2015, the bulk of that to provide salaries and benefits for 47 employees.
Granite City Township cost taxpayers $1.6 million in 2015, the bulk of that to provide salaries and benefits for 47 employees. Photo illustration

Taxes are necessary for the common good, right? So there is a special responsibility for those who take our taxes to ensure the money is spent efficiently, used frugally and delivers value.

Examine the finances of a township government and you will have a tough time believing anyone involved cares anything about those standards.

Townships exist in the netherworld between the layers of municipal and county government. In rural areas they often care for roads, but in municipal areas they often care for their own.

Belleville Township, East St. Louis Township and Granite City Township have no roads. They exist exactly within the boundaries of their respective cities.

So what is their purpose? They deliver an amount set by state law at up to $245 a month per needy person who is not a child, not elderly and not on another government program. That’s a pretty limited mission and a haphazard way to help the poor.

Belleville Township, which took state action and nearly required an Act of God to start its long, continuing demise, was delivering 19 cents in aid for every $1 taxed. East St. Louis Township, which convicted former supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton was treating like his personal ATM, delivered 18 cents in aid for every $1 taxed.

Granite City Township and East St. Louis Township each collected just about $1.6 million from taxpayers in 2015. But even with all the corruption and thievery taking place in East St. Louis Township, it still managed to hand the poor more aid than did Granite City Township. Granite City Township handed out $189,500, which would be less than 12 cents of every $1 taxed.

Like the other townships, Granite City Township exists for its employees, not for the residents. Forty-seven people drew paychecks from the township totaling $865,839 in 2015. Their retirement costs came close to the amount of assistance delivered. They had about $700,000 in cash assets — excess money collected from taxpayers.

Unlike the other townships, Granite City does offer the town hall as a senior center where you can play pinochle on Tuesday afternoons. It also houses an assessor’s office that took one-quarter of the $1.6 million. There is a meals on wheels program. There is a senior van, which duplicates the county transit services.

But like every township, the legitimate government functions can be absorbed by a municipality or the county. The charity functions can be absorbed by a church or a real charity.

If there was once a legitimate public need that these three townships fulfilled, it is long past. Illinois can afford to shed some of its nation-leading 6,963 layers of local government, and you can’t afford for them all to continue.

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