A focused, efficient and independent River Forest Township is the best way to provide human services to the community, according to Township Supervisor Carla Sloan.
That was the concluding point of a keynote presentation that Sloan delivered to the Township Officials of Cook County (TOCC) on May 21st at its Spring Conference in Countryside.
Along with its assessor’s office, the township’s focus is on working with agencies that deliver human services through a variety of programs related to youth, seniors and mental health.
Sloan was invited to speak to representatives from the 28 other townships in Cook County on the heels of an effort by State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch to pass HB4425, a bill calling for a binding referendum asking River Forest voters whether the township should be eliminated and its rights, powers, duties and obligations merged with the Village of River Forest.
Welch introduced the bill in January and he was trying to get it out of the Counties and Townships Committee and passed by the full Illinois House of Representatives.
In late March, the bill stalled in the committee, after Welch sensed it would not get committee approval and pulled it from consideration by the committee and the full House. River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci, who had advocated the bill’s passage, has since announced that the village will not, at least for the time being, push for it to move forward.
In her remarks to TOCC leaders, Sloan said she believed HB4425 was a “legislative test case” focusing on the smallest coterminous township in the State.
She gave background about the bill, dating back to its initial drafting in June 2013 and the township’s initial awareness of the bill’s existence in October. She restated portions of her testimony to the Counties and Townships Committee in late March, including the township’s opposition to the bill.
The legislation sought to eliminate River Forest Township only. “Why just one township, when there are many units of government in Illinois which could be considered for elimination?” Sloan asked. “Why a Township which is active, fully functioning and doing a good job delivering human services and Assessor services?”
“The legislation ‘fast forwarded’ to a binding referendum,” stated Sloan. No discussion about the Township’s elimination had previously taken place in public meeting, either by residents or the village trustees. Neither had the village presented a specific plan for how it would continue to deliver township services, and at what cost.
Sloan noted that elimination of the Township would not necessarily save the taxpayers any money. “If another government entity is going to provide the same level of services to our community, then someone will need to do the work. The services can’t be delivered for free.”
Human services in River Forest are most effectively and efficiently delivered by the Township, with the organization’s singular focus, experienced staff and highly accountable elected officials, Sloan concluded.
With a budget that is just over $600,000, the township represents 1 percent of a property tax bill in River Forest and does not duplicate services with the village, Sloan said.
“As we all know, while some government consolidation makes sense, it should be on a case by case basis, where units are duplicating services or underperforming,” Sloan told TOCC members.
“River Forest Township…is a robust and active Township, and I believe it represented the lowest hanging fruit, at least in Cook County,” Sloan added.
On May 13th, the township held a special meeting which was attended by more than 30 interested residents, including some village trustees. During that session, township leaders and citizen volunteers offered an overview of the many programs that River Forest Township delivers in the areas of seniors, mental health and youth services, as well as its assessor’s office.
To learn more about River Forest Township, call 708-366-2029 or visit www.RiverForestTownship.org. Also: www.facebook.com/RiverForestTownship and www.twitter.com/RFTownship.