State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) has released the final results of a recent legislative survey which showed that taxpayers believe elected officials should have to prove taxpayer savings before placing a road district consolidation question before voters.
Between January 23 and February 19, a survey was available through Reick’s website asking:
“Before placing a referendum question on a ballot, should townships exploring the consolidation of its road district into general operations have to conduct a cost study to ensure services would be maintained and that taxpayers would realize a financial benefit?”
The survey was promoted through press releases, social media and constituent newsletters. A total of 114 people responded to the survey and 104, or 91%, answered that yes, consolidation should only be done when it will result in savings for taxpayers.
“I filed HB 4190 because not every consolidation proposal saves taxpayers money, and when people are asked to vote a consolidation proposal up or down, they deserve to be acting from a full set of facts,” said Reick. “For whatever reason, some elected officials don’t think people deserve this added layer of transparency. They don’t think it’s important to ensure there would be no unforeseen negative consequences to the consolidation. I’m reminded of the county township consolidation proposal a few years ago here in McHenry County that was voted down by the board at the last minute because it would have raised taxes on residents in half of the county’s townships. If that proposal would have gone before voters, as many of the board members were so anxious to do, there would have been some very unhappy taxpayers when the dust settled and their taxes went up.”
Reick’s bill proposed that before a township could submit a referendum to abolish a road district, the township must prepare, through an independent contractor, a cost study that demonstrates the abolishment is cost-effective and that the township which would assume the road district responsibilities is capable of carrying out the duties performed by the road district slated for elimination. Any consulting firm with an existing agreement for services in the township in question or in the county where the township is located would be prohibited from conducting the study.
“My bill was assigned to the House Government Consolidation & Modernization Committee for a February 13 hearing, but the ranking lawmakers on the committee blocked the bill and refused to allow it to be heard,” Reick said. “They promptly buried my HB 4190 in a subcommittee where it would never see the light of day.”
Reick added that on the day the bill was originally to be heard, several people had submitted witness slips either for or against the bill. According to the witness slips on file that morning through the ilga.gov web site, 55 individuals had filed a slip in favor of Reick’s bill and four people had filed slips against it. “At every turn there were a majority of people who were in favor of an independent cost study before a consolidation request went to the ballot,” said Reick. “Those voices were silenced and completely disregarded when the leadership of the committee decided to kill the bill.”
Reick said he has not given up on full transparency when it comes to consolidation. “I support consolidation when a case is made that taxes will be reduced,” added Reick. “I’m first in line to say ‘yes-consolidate’ when taxpayers savings can be achieved. But we’re missing an important layer of transparency. The consequences of the consolidation, financial and otherwise, need to be known ahead of time and not after the fact.”