IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: State can't afford to keep townships

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
IBJ Editorial

Yogi Berra said it best: It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Indiana lawmakers are gearing up for another legislative session, and as IBJ reporter Francesca Jarosz reports on page 1 this week, township government reform will return to the lineup. We hope proponents can finally hit a home run.

We have made the case against township government here more than once, and the evidence keeps piling up. With property-tax caps putting a strain on local government—and estimated savings that surpass $400 million a year—Indiana simply cannot afford to hang on to this bureaucratic relic of the bad old days.

Townships collect tax money and deliver hyper-local services, including emergency poor relief. But that has a very real cost. The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance has said Marion County townships, for example, spend $1.32 for every dollar provided. That kind of overhead is unacceptable.

Then there are other, less obvious costs. As IBJ has reported, in Marion County’s Center Township—where about a quarter of residents live in poverty—the trustee’s office owns a $10 million portfolio of mostly vacant properties, keeping them off the tax rolls.

Townships also have drawn criticism for accumulating cash reserves—unspent taxpayer money. IBJ reported in 2008 that Center Township’s surplus over the previous seven years ranged from $4 million to $10.4 million, depending on expenses. In 2009, the other eight Marion County townships had a cumulative cash balance of $41.3 million; Center’s total was not available.

Eliminating township government would free up funding for cash-strapped counties. Sure, they’d pick up some expenses along with the township duties, but consolidating services almost certainly would allow for some savings. Just ask the for-profit businesses that tout “economies of scale” when gobbling up competitors.

Indeed, a 2007 statistical model estimated abolishing township government would save near $425 million a year. How can lawmakers say no to that?

Sadly, they have found a way in the past. Despite vigorous debate and some incremental progress, widespread reform has failed several trips through the General Assembly.

Apologists tout townships as the unit of government closest to the people they serve. Still, even the most involved citizens likely would be hard-pressed to identify their township trustees—let alone members of the paid advisory board—despite the fact that they’re elected.

This is an example of politics getting in the way of common sense, of politicians being more concerned about keeping one another happy than making the best use of taxpayers’ money. That may have been acceptable in the days of smoky back-room deals and two-martini lunches, but it’s not OK now. Legislators need to step up to the plate and swing for the fences.•

__________

To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Looking at the two companies - in spite of their relative size to one another -- Ricker's image is (by all accounts) pretty solid and reputable. Their locations are clean, employees are friendly and the products they offer are reasonably priced. By contrast, BP locations are all over the place and their reputation is poor, especially when you consider this is the same "company" whose disastrous oil spill and their response was nothing short of irresponsible should tell you a lot. The fact you also have people who are experienced in franchising saying their system/strategy is flawed is a good indication that another "spill" has occurred and it's the AM-PM/Ricker's customers/company that are having to deal with it.

  2. Daniel Lilly - Glad to hear about your points and miles. Enjoy Wisconsin and Illinois. You don't care one whit about financial discipline, which is why you will blast the "GOP". Classic liberalism.

  3. Isn't the real reason the terrain? The planners under-estimated the undulating terrain, sink holes, karst features, etc. This portion of the route was flawed from the beginning.

  4. You thought no Indy was bad, how's no fans working out for you? THe IRl No direct competition and still no fans. Hey George Family, spend another billion dollars, that will fix it.

  5. I live downtown Indy and had to be in downtown Chicago for a meeting. In other words, I am the target demographic for this train. It leaves at 6:00-- early but doable. Then I saw it takes 5+ hours. No way. I drove. I'm sure I paid 3 to 5 times as much once you factor in gas, parking, and tolls, but it was reimbursed so not a factor for me. Any business traveler is going to take the option that gets there quickly and reliably... and leisure travelers are going to take the option that has a good schedule and promotional prices (i.e., Megabus). Indy to Chicago is the right distance (too short to fly but takes several hours to drive) that this train could be extremely successful even without subsidies, if they could figure out how to have several frequencies (at least 3x/day) and make the trip in a reasonable amount of time. For those who have never lived on the east coast-- Amtrak is the #1 choice for NY-DC and NY-Boston. They have the Acela service, it runs almost every hour, and it takes you from downtown to downtown. It beats driving and flying hands down. It is too bad that we cannot build something like this in the midwest, at least to connect the bigger cities.

ADVERTISEMENT