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October 27, 2011

Evanston Township Seeks Dissolution

Evanston Township's trustees recently voted to draft a referendum for the March 20, 2012 ballot that would ask voters whether Evanston Township should be dissolved and the township's duties transferred to the City of Evanston. The last time an Illinois township was dissolved was 1932. Evanston Township's trustees, who also act as aldermen for the City of Evanston, also voted to seek a statutory change that would provide a mechanism for dissolving Evanston Township and allowing the City of Evanston to take over services.

Most commonly, townships provide the following services to residents:

  • Townships must administer and provide general assistance programs for needy residents.
  • Townships with at least four miles of road that are not a part of the state, county, or municipal road system are responsible for construction, repair, maintenance, financing and supervision of township roads. (Evanston Township does not have a road district.)
  • Townships elect a township assessor to administer township level assessments. In Cook County, township assessors serve as deputy assessors to the county assessor.

Although the City and the Township of Evanston have identical boundaries, dissolving the township government will not be simple. The state constitution requires that the General Assembly provide statutory guidance on the formation of townships, as well as a statutory mechanism "for the transfer of assets, powers and functions, and for the payment of outstanding debt in connection with the formation, consolidation, merger, division, dissolution and change in the boundaries of units of local government." It also allows one or more townships to be dissolved or divided with the approval of a referendum. However, state statute does not provide a clear route to dissolving one township within a county that is under township organization. It appears that state statute only provides a mechanism for the dissolution of townships on a countywide basis. As a result, it remains unclear whether the passage of a referendum in Evanston would actually dissolve Evanston Township.