Bill would scrap township government

A state lawmaker wants to abolish township government in Indiana.

A bill by Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis would transfer all township functions to county government. The county executive would assume the powers and duties of the township trustee, and county commissioners and councils would take over the legislative and fiscal powers of township boards.

The transfer would begin January 1, 2013, if the bill becomes law.

DeLaney says the bill would save millions of dollars by streamlining government.

Consolidating government has been on Gov. Mitch Daniels’ to-do list for some time. Before last year’s 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.

Opponents have argued that township government is more transparent than county offices. Still, many voters would be hard-pressed to identify their township leaders, let alone evaluate their performance.

IBJ reported in 2008 that Indianapolis’ Center Township trustee 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, former Trustee Carl Drummer built up a surplus fund to a high of $10.4 million and accumulated a $10 million portfolio of mostly vacant properties.

The full Legislature reconvenes Tuesday.

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