Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Commission On Local Government Releases Report

Proponents of serious local government reform are going to like some of the ideas proposed by the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform in its final report released this morning. They want a single county executive with a stronger county council to whom professionally-qualified administrators would report. The Commission wants to get rid of townships and transfer their authority to the county. The power to tax would be limited to elected officials. And spending by all units of local government will be subject to more rigorous examination by elected officials if the Commission has its way.

Under the approach adopted by the Commission, the single county executive would replace the separate elected offices of auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor, sheriff and coroner. Even the duties of the county clerk would be transferred to the elected executive and the county election board. The county assessor would be appointed by the county executive and required to meet certain minimum professional qualifications. A countywide body would oversee all public safety responsibilities. Emergency dispatch services would also be consolidated and managed on a countywide basis.

Schools would also see a lot of changes. School districts would be reorganized to achieve a minimum student population of 2,000. Bond issues by a school board would be subject to the approval of the municipal or county government's fiscal body containing the greatest proportion of assessed value in the school district. Joint purchasing by school districts would be undertaken to save money. And school board elections would be scheduled to take place in the November general election of even-numbered years.

Municipal elections will be moved to the even-numbered years as well. Cities will lose health department responsibilities to the county. Libraries will come under the jurisdiction of the counties. All budgets and bond issues for libraries and special districts will be subject to the approval of the fiscal body of the county or municipality containing the greatest proportion of assessed value in the library or special taxing district.

Here's one I particularly like. Employees of a local government will be prohibited from serving as elected officials within the same local government unit. It's already a part of our Constitution. Let's start enforcing it now. Further consolidation of local governments will be encouraged under the changes proposed by the Commission. There are also provisions for statewide support and monitoring to assist local governments.

Let the battle began. The Commission's proposals take aim at a lot of politicians who will be less than anxious about giving up their political fiefdoms.


Anonymous said...

Bravo to the Commission. Knowing what I know about the people who have to pass these reforms, it's hard to be optimistic.

But the pressure needs to start now.

M Theory said...

Word we're hearing is that the People love it! However, we want to see analysis on how much elimination of these layers will save the taxpayer.

We also would like to have referendums on large scale projects, so the people collectively get the final say in projects that might be benefitting architects, construction companies, and other big corporate interests that could be snuggled cozy in bed with our elected politicians.

Mike Bowman said...

It is interesting to note how they said a lot of this was proposed 70 YEARS AGO.

Look how long it took the state to change to DST.

How many officer holders will agree to the idea that their job is expendable.

I hope the power of the people helps keep them in line !

Anonymous said...

Technical question: Would local
Judges lose their mandate power
on expenses associated with
administration of their Court?
Would this mean no more new
Courts Buildings or Jails in Indiana if everything would be put up for a local vote?

Christopher Hodapp said...

Please, standardize school designs statewide so bids can be kept predictable and in line. Any deviations from the standard plan won't be paid out of tax money.

Carmel or Fishers or Nora wants a $14 million pool or a marble palace or a college-style stadium? Go hunt up private participation from donors. Go beg from the alumni and make them write a check, not me.

Anonymous said...

You guys know according to the CAFR that the state has over collected property tax in 2006 by at least $1 Billion.

An activist that regularly networks with us has a copy of the 2006 CAFR and the numbers are being crunched now.

There is likely plenty of room with these changes put into effect and considering the excess tax collection to ELMINATE...which has been our position all along.

Bravo to the activist that got a copy and got it into the hands of people that can begin to decipher it!

Unknown said...

I don't like Ssme of the little things that seem to be aimed at making things easier for voters too lazy to go to the polls more than once every four years.

Moving school board elections to the fall? They are held in the spring for the simple reason that the new board needs to take office before the start of the school year. How will that be handled? Also, city elections are held in odd-numbered years to keep local politics separate from state and federal politics. It ought to stay that way.

Anonymous said...

David said:
"Also, city elections are held in odd-numbered years to keep local politics separate from state and federal politics. It ought to stay that way."

That depends on your point of view, actually. If reducing the size of government is more important, moving the election to an even numbered year makes more sense. It wouldn't have be a presidential year - it could be the mid-term cycle, which would provide some insulation from national politics.

Elections are terribly expensive to run - from payment of poll workers, to equipment, and so on. Putting it at the same time as other elections makes sense if you want to save money and increase efficiency. Voters don't have to make another trip to vote, and seeing as how few people vote in municipal elections anyway, I'm not sure moving it is a bad thing.


M Theory said...

Hey...since we're talking about saving money and streamlining government. Why don't we make the state D's and R's pay for the cost of the primary elections instead of the taxpayers?

Then we'll just move the school board elections to November.

Eliminating the cost of running the primaries statewide would save a bundle!

Anonymous said...

I'm all for all kinds of these proposals.

Fewer elections, less expense. I'm for it. But that one proposal (muni elections in even years) is a microcosm of why most of this will never get through. Which boils down to: Ballard gets 3 yrs or 5? Immediately it dissolves into partisan politics.

After this came out I forced myself to listen to Garrison. As expected, he and his south and west side cronies and callers were all over the evils of consolidation and magnificence that is township government. Barf.

Anonymous said...

Angry Republican--elections are even more expensive here than they need to be.

Let's open up the rolls, let people register, with proper proof, on Election Day, and truly encourage citizen participation. Instead of the stilited nonsense we have now.

And David--school board elections in the fall won't make a damn bit of difference. Boards enact guidelines, and superintendents and principals enforce those guidelines. Twelve months a year.

Frighteningly few voters participate in local school board elections. Thus, superintendents and their frothy throngs can whip up their friends in short order.

And, many school boards have election districts that are confusing. Elect all at-large. It's relaly not that conmplicated.

Anonymous said...

its not that i disagree with smaller governement and saving money. But there is a problem with getting rid of township governement. 1 this is a steppign stone for people to be a township trustee or so to see if they would be interested in more politics (least important of all though). More importantly, fire protection. As a member of a volunteer fire dept in a richer township. I dont think it is fair to make everyone pay the saem tax for fire protection. Some areas have a higher population density and thus need more fire proection then a lone house on a farm. Not to say the farm house is less imporatant but township funds (distributed by the trustee) go to pay for things like fire apperatus, hydrants, ect. The reality of the situation is that most volunteer depts get to the fire in time to keep it from burning other things down. Thus an area with more houses needs more money for fire protection to ensure the safety of the house surrending the one on fire. To conbat this our trustee raised taxes a slight amount to pay people to be on station durring the day time when volunteers are as available. He is doing this becuase understand fire protection is important and we need to be able to respond wuickly and protect property and lives.

Also, the township trustee manages cemetery upkeep, who will do that. Currently most trustees ignore that becuase they dont want to raise taxes to pay for it. But it is a felony to ignore the cemeteries. SO the county executive will need to raise taxes to pay for all the cemeteries.

In addition poor relief, the township provides assistence to the poorer township residents. Our turstee spends the majority of his time dealing with that. He raised taxes specfically to help more poor people. How will an exectuctive do this.

This new elected offcie will need many people working for him simply to do the job that each trustee does. These will all be full time employees with good pay and govenment benifits.

How is that cheaper then have a 12 or so trustee each who make aprox $8-10 per hour?? Keep the trustee system it allows a local resident of the township to have a say in how money is spent and to provide support for people in his township.