Township Government in Illinois
Government closest to the people it serves is the government most accountable to them. For more than 150 years, Township Government in Illinois has served the local interests of its constituents and remains directly accountable to the voters who select their representatives in local government.
The people who serve in Township Government are men and women who embody the practice of citizen government. They work in local factories, offices, retail outlets, on farms and in the home. Because they govern at the most basic level of service, they make themselves available to the people they serve.
More than any other government in North America, Township Government is operated by . . . The People Next Door.
Older Than the Republic Itself
The first North American townships were established by immigrants in Rhode Island in 1636. Township Government survives and thrives today as the oldest existing form of government on the continent. In act, 38 of the 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 had experienced the benefits of Township Government.
In declaring that government should derive its just powers from the consent of the governed, the nation’s founding fathers reflected their faith in the model of Township Government that still exists today. Every year, Townships hold their Annual Town Meeting to give each and every citizen direct say in the operation of the township. In Illinois, the Annual Town Meeting is held on the second Tuesday of each April.
The Illinois constitution of 1848 gave voters in each county the opportunity to adopt Township Government. By 1850, the first Township Governments began operation. Today 85 of Illinois’ 102 counties operate under the township form of government and the 1,433 townships serve more than 8 million citizens.
By law, Illinois townships are charged with three basic functions: 1) general assistance for the indigent; 2) the assessment of real property for the basis of local taxation; 3) maintenance of all roads and bridges outside federal, state and other local jurisdiction.
General Assistance Townships provide food, shelter and emergency relief for needy people until they are able to support themselves. Many townships in Illinois operate food banks that guarantee the necessities of life for children.
Property Assessment Townships establish the value of all real property in the Township. The township assessor, in fact, is the only elected government official who must pass approved courses of instruction before standing for election to the office.
Road and Bridge Maintenance Township Government maintains over 71,000 miles of roads in Illinois-a full 53 percent of all thoroughfares in the state.
Other Services Beyond those services established by state law, Township Government provides vital service to the people next door. This may include senior citizens programs, youth programs, assistance to the disabled, parks and recreational facilities, health services and cemetery maintenance. In this regard, Township Government serves its neighbors from the cradle to the grave.
Township Government Makeup
Most Illinois townships elect eight officials: a supervisor, clerk, four trustees, an assessor and a highway commissioner. Five counties-Cook, Madison, Peoria, Sangamon and Will-also elect a tax collector.
The supervisor is chief executive officer of the township and chairs the board of trustees. The supervisor also administers the general assistance program and is treasurer of all town funds.
Trustees comprise the legislative branch of the township. With the supervisor, they have voting rights over establishing township policies outside the jurisdiction of the assessor and highway commissioner.
The clerk is ex-officio clerk of the highway district and the local election authority and keeps all town records except for active general assistance case records. The clerk also is responsible for posting legal announcements for the township.
Commissioner Except in townships with fewer than four miles of road, the highway commissioner is responsible for maintenance of all roads and bridges in the district that are not part of any other government road system.
The assessor establishes values on all parcels of property within the township. The assessor does not levy taxes. The values determined by the assessor are used by other government entities to levy their taxes against.
Township Officials of Illinois
The Township Officials of Illinois, headquartered in the state capital of Springfield, serves as a clearinghouse of information for Illinois townships. TOI was founded in 1907 as Township Government’s liaison with state government and today represents 99 percent of the state’s townships.
TOI monthly publishes Township Perspective, the official source of information about Township Government in Illinois.
As a service to its members, TOI also sponsors a risk management program, TOIRMA (Township Officials of Illinois Risk Management Association), which was established in 1986 to provide Illinois townships with a source of protection against costly liability claims. The program is available only to townships that are members of TOI.
The Township Officials of Illinois general offices are located at 408 S. Fifth Street, Springfield, Illinois, 62701. Our telephone number is 217/744-2212 and our fax is 217/744-7419.