Saturday, April 06, 2013

Center Township Trustee's Office Still Fleecing Taxpayers

I'm not sure this will come as a surprise to anyone who has been awake the past couple of decades, but the Center Township Trustee's Office is still fleecing taxpayers after all these years. Its annual budget has now grown to $12.7 million, only $1.7 million of which is spent on its primary mission--poor relief. It's still spending more than $2 on personnel costs for every $1 in relief it provides to the poor with an annual payroll of $3.7 million for its 74-person staff. The township is also sitting on $6.7 million in reserves but refuses to return money to taxpayers. "I wish I had more money to access," Center Township Trustee Eugene Akers told the IBJ's Kathleen McClaughlin. The township was sitting on $10.5 million before the economic downturn hit in 2008.

McLaughlin highlights some of Akers' wasteful spending. He spent $572,000 renovating space in the Julia Carson Government Center for the small claims court. The problem is that the small claims court is fighting a legal battle to block the move of its court facilities from the City-County Building where it pays $16,000 a year in annual rent payments. A trial court ruled in the court's favor, but Akers has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The legal battle alone cost the township more than $300,000 last year in legal fees.

Akers, a retired IPS janitor, tells McLaughlin that a Sunday sermon about the "teach the man to fish" proverb inspired him to create a job-training program. So Akers went out and spent more than $600,000 to purchase a building where unemployed persons can receive free training on the basics of carpentry, electrical wiring and small-engine repair, although no certification accompanies the training. Critics says Akers could have put the money to wiser use by paying scholarships for persons to receive accredited training from agencies already providing job-training services. Akers told McLaughlin he didn't rely on other sources to provide the training because "I don't have any extra money to give away to another program." "The money I have here is quite adequately spent on the people I need to help," he added.

Akers tells McLaughlin he plans to offset costs by opening up a thrift shop and a small-engine repair service in the building where the job training is provided. Sounds a little like the thrift shop Julia Carson operated when she was trustee decades ago. Her office provided vouchers that could only be used at the township's thrift shop, but the recipients complained that clothing items cost more at the township-run thrift store than they could purchase them elsewhere.

Center Township collects over $3 million a year in property taxes and gets almost $2 million a year from the local income tax. The township's properties generate about $500,000 a year in rents. Akers tells McLaughlin that the cost of maintaining the township's assistance office at 863 Mass Avenues is "ungodly." "I could sell everything and build something new," he tells her. He probably will.

In a separate story, McLaughlin looks at what townships throughout Marion County are spending on poor relief during these tough times for the four-year period from 2008-11. Not much as it turns out. Center Township's spending peaked in 2008 with $2.6 million in expenditures before declining to $1.7 million.  Lawrence Township's poor relief spending has dropped a third from $301,000 to $207,000. Perry Township's spending dropped the most from $158,000 to $60,000. Wayne Township's spending has been cut back substantially from $918,000 to $518,000. Washington Township's spending fell from $263,000 to $177,000, while Warren Township's spending has remained flat. Only Pike saw an increase in spending from $244,000 to $345,000.


CircleCityScribe said...

This is yet another reason we need to eliminate Township Government in Indiana. We don't need a layer of government to own real estate with tax money and be in the landlord business!

They need to empty the bank accounts of all Township Trustees into their respective county general fund.

CircleCityScribe said...

...the IBJ story indicates that this layer of government is for poor relief, yet only 20% (20 cents of every TAX dollar) goes for poor relief. The rest goes to a 74 person staff!!!!

Why is he in the real estate business at all?

This is an abomination and an example of abusive Democrat TAX AND SPEND government!

Pete Boggs said...

The company thrift store has a sharecropper ring to it, as do crony capped schemes promoted by Republicans.

This story is a metaphor for consumptive sector bloat at all morbid levels; of unsustainability.

Flogger said...

The Republicans who are the Political Dominant Life form in State Government with the House, Senate, and Governor's chair, could eliminate Township Government as it exists.

Why don't they???

Gary R. Welsh said...

The problem is that the Republican lawmakers are just as protective of township government as the Democrats are. That's why the legislation to eliminate township government is not going anywhere at the State House. The only thing they agreed to do was the referendum on the elimination of township assessors, which past handily. Ironically, there were less complaints about the job the township assessors did in assessing property than there has been since the county assessor took over their responsibility in Marion County.