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Senate OKs bill to eliminate township boards

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Township boards would be eliminated in Indiana and their duties would be transferred to the county level starting in 2013 if a Statehouse proposal becomes law.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 29-19 Thursday for the bill, which now moves to the Democrat-led House for consideration.

The bill is among several measures that would consolidate or revamp township government. The Indiana House has passed a proposal that would let voters decide in November whether to eliminate their township trustees and boards.

Critics say township government is antiquated and expensive, while supporters say it's the form of government closest to the people.

Still, many voters would be hard-pressed to identify their township leaders, let alone evaluate their performance. And questions about their efficiency linger.

IBJ reported in 2008 that former Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer’s office collected an average of $6.9 million in the previous seven years—mostly from taxes—to help needy residents, but only $2 million reached the penniless. At the same time, the office built up a surplus fund to a high of $10.4 million and accumulated a $10 million portfolio of mostly vacant properties.

Oversight of the office falls to Center Township's board, which meets at least four times a year, but meeting records show they seldom discussed financial details at length.

Consolidating government has been on Gov. Mitch Daniels' to-do list for years. Before the 2009 legislative session, he announced a series of recommendations that would eliminate thousands of elected officials at the county and township levels.

His move came after a 2007 report by the bipartisan Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform recommended similar changes, and voters in 2009 approved the elimination of township assessors in favor of a single county assessor.

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