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Township Government is described as the unit of government that is closest to the people. Township Government survives and thrives today as the oldest existing form of government on the continent. There are 18 Townships in Lake County and 1,431 Townships in Illinois. It is the only form of government where citizens run the annual meetings and vote on action items. Annual meetings are held the 2nd Tuesday in April after 6:00 p.m. to provide for maximum participation. Each Township provides services unique to their community, but share the same main functions. The structure of Township government acts to decentralize state government in order to serve the individual concerns of local communities and allowing supervisors to determine what services best meet the needs of their constituents. The township board is directly accessible to residents with no layers of bureaucracy in between.
The three main functions of Illinois Township Government are:
- Administering the General Assistance Program
- Assessing Properties
- Maintaining Roads and Bridges
The Township Supervisor serves as the CEO of the Township and is responsible to provide for individuals who are in need and qualify for assistance. All Townships are required to provide General Assistance and a significant amount of townships also provide emergency assistance, food and shelter, among other programs. All services represent an important local service not duplicated by other units of government.
The Township Clerk is responsible for maintaining public records and coordinating election details.
The Township Assessor is responsible for the mass appraisal of all taxable property within the Township and assists residents with property tax exemptions.
53% of Illinois roads are under the jurisdiction of Townships. The Highway Commissioner is responsible for the construction and maintenance of those roads and bridges.
Along with the Township Supervisor, four Township Trustees serve as the board representing the interests of Township residents with voting rights over establishing Township policies outside the jurisdiction of the Assessor and Highway Commissioner.
Zion Township is one of a very few townships considered to be coterminous because its boundaries are the same as the City of Zion. Though Zion-Benton Township was established in 1850, Zion Township succeeded from it in 1930, leaving Zion Township and Benton Township as separate entities. Because of this, the City of Zion oversees the Highway department and the City of Zion and Township Board are comprised of the same elected officials.