Cook County Township Government FAQ Part 1

April 14, 2010

In Cook County, township government often gets overlooked amidst the various local governments including municipalities, school districts, park districts, community college districts and others. In order to shed light on this largely unexamined unit of government, the Civic Federation has created a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that provides information about the basics of township government in Cook County. Part 1 of the list describes the basic functions and structure of Cook County township government and follows below.

How many townships are there in Illinois?

There are a total of 1,432 units of township government in Illinois.

Who does township government serve?

Township governments serve all residents of the State of Illinois except those living in the City of Chicago and the Counties of Alexander, Calhoun, Edwards, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Menard, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Scott, Union, Wabash and Williamson. 

How many townships are there in Cook County?

Cook County has 30 townships. Twenty-nine of those operate exclusively as townships while the Town of Cicero operates as both a municipality and township. Cicero is unique in that respect and therefore it is difficult to compare to other townships. This and subsequent FAQs summarize data for the 29 units of township government that operate exclusively as township governments. 

What types of services do Cook County townships provide?

Each township in Cook County provides a unique set of services, but they all retain the two core functions: administering General Assistance (GA) financial aid for residents of the township and serving as deputies of the Cook County Assessor. The GA program provides temporary financial assistance to residents and families who meet state income eligibility requirements under Chapter 305 Section 5/6‑1.2 of the Public Aid Code. Township assessors’ main function is to assist residents appeal their assessments. Township assessors also accept and file property tax exemption applications, process building permits and file township assessor inquiries.[1]  

Townships with roads and bridges in unincorporated areas also provide maintenance services for those roads and bridges.  In Cook County, 23 townships provide road maintenance services. 

Townships in Cook County may also provide additional services such as community mental health services, health services, youth services, senior services, special police protection of unincorporated areas and park maintenance for parks located within unincorporated areas.

The following table summarizes the core functions of each township in Cook County, excluding the Town of Cicero, and samples other township functions. 


Why are there no townships in the City of Chicago?

The City of Chicago’s residents voted to eliminate township government and transfer township functions to the City by referendum in 1902. [2]   Prior to 1902, multiple township governments existed within the City with each township government operating independently and electing its own officials.

Are township governments affiliated with the Township School Districts?

Civil townships in Illinois are distinct units of government from township school districts that used to operate in the State of Illinois. Township school districts in Illinois were once organized by congressional townships, six square mile units the Federal government uses for mapping public lands, and are not affiliated with civil townships in Illinois. 

[1] Township assessor inquiries are reports from residents who believe a parcel of land in the township has been accessed incorrectly. 
[2] Michael D. Sublett, Township; Diffusion and Persistence of Grassroots Government in Illinois; 1850-2000 (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2004), p. 112.