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Local politicians again recommend ‘no’ vote on Thornton Township mental health referendum

LANSING, Ill. (March 9, 2024) – As Early Voting opened Monday, Thornton Township residents began to cast their ballots on a referendum question that could see the Township collect hundreds of thousands of tax dollars every year to fund mental health-related services.

The referendum question first appeared during the election last April, and was voted down. Before last year’s election, the referendum prompted local legislators and mayors to circulate a letter recommending that local residents vote “no” to the question.

This year, local legislators are doing the same, signing a similar letter urging local voters to vote against the proposal.

What are the referenda on my ballot?

For Thornton Township residents, three referenda are on the ballot regarding the Township. These questions will appear on Democrat, Republican, and non-partisan ballots.

The first referendum question asks voters:

“Should the Township open a second food pantry in the Township to provide food assistance to the residents of Thornton Township?”

The second question asks:

“Shall Thornton Township levy an annual tax not to exceed 0.15% for purposes of providing community mental health facilities and services, including facilities and services for the person with a developmental disability or substance use disorder, which levy will have a single additional tax of a maximum of 0.15% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein extended for such purposes?”

Also included on ballots is the following note after the mental health question:

“(1) The total approximate amount of taxes extendable at the most recently extended limiting rate is currently $19,902,561.82, and if this proposition is approved, the total approximate amount of taxes extendable will be $22,773,123.62.

(2) For the 2024 levy year, the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single-family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $21.93 semiannually.”

The third referendum asks:

“Should the Township charge a fee of two dollars ($2.00) per person, which shall increase annually by the cost of living, for access to the Township’s soup and salad bar?”

Local leaders oppose mental health referendum

The letter of non-support was signed by 14 individuals, a mix of local mayors and legislators.

The letter says, in part, “Thornton Township families already pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation. It is vital not to add to this burden — especially when there is no need. A number of highly professional organizations — funded by private foundation grants, and federal, state, and county monies, are already providing very effective services to our area.”

The letter lists VA Emergency Mental Health, Phoenix Behavioral Services, South Suburban College Mental Health & Wellness Services, the upcoming South Suburban Integrated Healthcare Clinic, and the Illinois Department of Mental Health as services already available, or soon to be available.

The letter also calls into question Thornton Township leadership’s use of public funds.

“As stated, we wish to avoid placing further hardship on homeowners. But we also believe — given recent news media and law enforcement inquiries regarding possible misappropriation of taxpayer dollars — that to request more of township taxpayer’s hard-earned money is at best, ill-advised.”

The letter was signed by the following legislators:

  • Napoleon B. Harris III, Illinois State Senator, 15th District
  • Donna Miller, Cook County Commissioner, 6th District
  • Monica Gordon, Cook County Commissioner, 5th District

It was also signed by the following local mayors:

  • Vernard Alsberry Jr., Hazel Crest
  • Roger A. Agpawa, Markham
  • Thomas A. Brown, East Hazel Crest
  • Christopher J. Clark, Harvey
  • Don A. De Graff, South Holland
  • Patricia L. Eidam, Lansing
  • Ronald J. Gardiner, Glenwood
  • Richard A. Hofeld, Homewood
  • Lawrence L. Jackson, Riverdale
  • Thaddeus M. Jones, Calumet City
  • Terry R. Wells, Village of Phoenix

The full letter can be viewed here.

Last year’s results

13,752 votes were cast in 2023 on the mental health proposal. The final tallies are listed below:

  • Yes: 6,706 (48.76%)
  • No: 7,046 (51.24%)

12.18% of all registered Thornton Township voters weighed in on the issue in April of 2023.

Issue for the voters

Ultimately, the voters of the largest township in Illinois will again determine whether it will establish a mental health board through a tax increase. Election Day is March 19, and early voting has already started.

Thornton Township is located at 333 E. 162nd Street in South Holland.

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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thankful I saw and looked into your previous article regarding these referendums before I received my early ballot. Thank you!

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