JAROD HITCHINGS of Sherman won an election April 4, and he’s looking forward to working for his neighbors — even if others say he ran for an unneeded job they thought was gone.
His story could be seen as an example of how hard it is to cut government structure in a state with just under 7,000 units of government.
“I think this is a great outreach for people to feel connected to local government, and government works best at the local level,” Hitchings said.
Democrat Hitchings, 36, a former member of the Montgomery County Board and Panhandle School Board, got named to the ballot and was unopposed for Fancy Creek Township collector. The township has eight other offices, all held by Republicans. Hitchings takes office Jan. 1.
Republicans running the township board voted more than four years ago to de-fund the collector job, which paid $4,000 annually. The idea was that the Sangamon County treasurer’s office would take over property tax collection functions, many of which it already performs.
County Treasurer TOM CAVANAGH backs the move and wonders why somebody would run for the vacant job. The treasurer’s office already sends out annual tax bills and collects the second of two tax installments.
“The office is a dinosaur,” Cavanagh said of the township collector post. “I don’t know what he’s thinking to jump on a dying bandwagon and to fly in the face of the elected town board out in Fancy Creek.”
But the “dinosaur” still exists beyond Fancy Creek Township, as collectors were elected April 4 in 16 other townships in Sangamon County. Among the rest of the 26 townships in the county, some are going without the position, and in Capital Township, which is virtually contiguous with the city of Springfield, the Sangamon County treasurer is by state law also the township collector and supervisor.
Cavanagh did say that despite his view that township collectors aren’t needed, they do “high-quality work.”
DAVE FUCHS, a Democratic precinct committeeman in Fancy Creek Township, said when Hitchings said he wanted to run for the open seat of collector, Fuchs reserved space at the Sherman Public Library for a Democratic township caucus. He said he wasn’t aware that the position was de-funded, so three committeemen, including Hitchings, met and Hitchings was slated.
In 2012, the Citizens Efficiency Commission for Sangamon County recommended that townships turn over all property tax collections to the county treasurer. And in an advisory referendum in November, more than 66,000 Sangamon County voters — 75 percent of those who turned out — approved the idea that the office of township collector should be abolished.
State Rep. TIM BUTLER, R-Springfield, with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, is pushing House Bill 3521 to abolish township collectors in Sangamon County by Jan. 1, 2022, allowing people elected April 4 to finish their terms. Township collectors only exist in Illinois in Sangamon, Peoria, Will and Madison counties.
Butler’s bill passed the House 110-3, and goes to the Senate, where Sen. BILL BRADY, R-Bloomington, is sponsor.
KEVIN FORDEN, Fancy Creek Township supervisor, said the de-funding of the collector’s office was done as a cost-saving measure. He noted that even the first tax installment can be paid online or mailed to or presented in person at the county treasurer’s office in downtown Springfield.
BILL PETERMAN, a financial adviser who had served as Fancy Creek collector, said he agreed with the vote to de-fund the office. He noted some taxpayers appreciated when he had office hours at Sherman’s library to make collections.
“A lot of farmers and senior citizens tend to want to pay in person, to get that receipt delivered to them as they pay,” Peterman said. “From my experience, that’s probably one aspect that folks in the township miss.”
“I expected to get some complaints from taxpayers,” Forden said of the change, but “I haven’t gotten one phone call in four years.”
Cavanagh said if Hitchings does do collections, he won’t be paid and will have to buy his own insurance.
“I will acquire any bonds needed to serve and will take office in January,” said Hitchings, who is paid $60,660 annually in his job at the Illinois Department of Transportation. “As a Democrat, I felt in line with our party’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, that local government is essential in representing the interests of property owners by providing a local outlet to voice their thoughts on their hard-earned tax dollars. … With the gridlock in Springfield and D.C., I am thankful we have responsive municipal outlets.”
A folksy musical lamentation has emerged from the state budget impasse.
A group of lawmakers who attended an Illinois United Student Senate Forum at Governors State University in University Park last week got to hear student RACHEL GATTONE sing “If We Had a Budget,” written by GSU student Senate President JUSTIN SMITH. Student leaders from Northeastern Illinois and Chicago State universities also attended.
“If we had a budget,” the song says, “then maybe we could retain our students so they don’t pick up and leave.”
State Sen. PAT McGUIRE, D-Joliet, said he found the song to be “another punch to the gut during a really tough day.”
He said he spoke at the event about hearing that some social work majors at Northeastern, in Chicago, were unable to graduate on time because they couldn’t do needed internships at agencies that were shut down or lost personnel to supervise interns because of the impasse. He said he also talked about students having to work more in outside jobs or having “tough conversations” with parents about continuing in school without the assurance of currently unfunded Monetary Award Program grants for those with financial need.
McGuire said he encouraged students to write to GOP Gov. BRUCE RAUNER, as he believes the governor “is unfamiliar with the life of a student at a community college or a public university or a non-highly selective private college.”
Rauner spokeswoman ELENI DEMERTZIS said it is “odd” that McGuire “feels the liberty to speak about the governor’s life experiences.” She said Rauner “throughout his life” has worked to improve schools and “very much understands the hardship facing our colleges, universities and students, which is why he is committed to passing a truly balanced budget that will meet their needs.”
Northeastern, by the way, was in the news recently because as it has implemented cutbacks, there was also an agreement to pay VALERIE JARRETT, an adviser to former President BARACK OBAMA, $30,000 to deliver the commencement address. A donor stepped up to cover the cost, but Jarrett then announced that she hadn’t been aware of the school’s financial situation, and would not take a fee for the May 8 speech, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
LaHood town hall
U.S. Rep. DARIN LaHOOD, R-Peoria, will have an open-to-the-public town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Five Points Washington, 360 N. Wilmore Road in Washington. His 18th Congressional District includes part of Springfield.
Dr. DAVID GILL, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in the 13th Congressional District, tried to run as an independent in 2016. I had the year wrong in a recent column.
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via Bernard Schoenburg, SJ-R political columnist – The State Journal-Register http://ift.tt/2l9Xt68
April 15, 2017 at 01:13PM