Vernon Township voters to decide future of road district

  • Voters in Vernon Township will be asked in November whether to consolidate the road district with the general office operation.

      Voters in Vernon Township will be asked in November whether to consolidate the road district with the general office operation. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/23/2018 4:18 PM

One local taxing body will let voters decide whether one less unit of government will mean more for residents.

Basically, Vernon Township trustees want to eliminate the position of road commissioner and the salary and benefits that go with it to save $107,750 per year. This month, trustees voted 5-0 to put the question on the ballot in November.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Because of required wording, voters technically will be asked whether the road district should be abolished, with all powers, duties and other responsibilities transferred to township control.

If approved, the district and office of Vernon Township highway commissioner would be abolished effective May 17, 2021, with the township assuming its duties.

Supporters say nothing would change except that the position -- it is elected separately, can levy taxes and is responsible for its own spending -- would no longer exist. Township Supervisor Dan Didech has described it as a "redundant and unnecessary taxing body."

With about 13 miles of roads, Vernon Township is the sixth smallest of the 15 township road districts in Lake County. Antioch Township is the largest with more than 86 miles.

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Vernon Township Highway Commissioner Michael H. Lofstrom, elected last spring on a Democratic slate with Didech and others, declined to comment.

While agreeing the amount of savings would not be great in the overall property tax picture, supporters say it's the thought of trying to lower the tax burden on constituents that counts.

"We're not talking about reducing services; we're talking about eliminating waste," township Trustee Jonathan Altenberg said.

The move started last September with approval of a township study committee. That action followed approval of legislation advanced by Democratic state Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake to allow the position of road commissioner to be consolidated.

Three open meetings followed the study result and the town board voted to approve the ballot measure Feb. 14.

Comments at the meeting included kudos from West Deerfield Township Supervisor Alyson Feiger for the Vernon Township road district's "professionalism, communications skills and job performance" in caring for her township's roads. Others said consolidation could result in higher costs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Township officials said service would not be compromised, no layoffs would result and the move would be cost-effective by reducing layers of government.

Didech said township officials had concerns with road district spending and management.

"It's really in a lot of ways an unaccountable unit of government," said Didech, who is running in the Democratic primary for 59th District state representative. "We think because it will be managed by a five-member board, it will be more accessible," he said.

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