offices such as: assessor, treasurer, surveyor, recorder, sheriff
and coroner would not be voted on
Committee suggests radical changes in local government
Wanda English Burnett, Editor
In a report released Tuesday, the Indiana Commission on Local
Government Reform has come to the conclusion that local government
in Indiana does not deliver the most effective service at the
The report titled, Streamlining Local Government, weve
got to stop governing like this, finds the present system
is more complicated than it needs to be.
The commission proposes a new plan. This would see county governments
led by a single county executive and a stronger county council.
Services that are currently performed by township personnel would
be transferred to county government.
The report continues saying, Only elected officials should
have the power to levy taxes. All spending, including school spending
should be subject to more rigorous examination by elected officials.
It further suggests that Indiana school districts should
be large enough to gather sufficient resources to educate our
children for twenty first century life.
The report admits the ideas proposed will be disruptive,
even painful, in the short run.
Saying the status quo is no longer good enough, Joseph Kernan
(former Indiana governor) and Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice,
Indiana Supreme Court, presented the findings saying, the
time for a leaner, more efficient government is at hand.
Citing property tax reform as the main reason for looking at alternative
ways to make government more lean, the report notes that Indiana
is facing hurdles, among those, voter apathy. It says local government
is cumbersome, redundant, and complex.
Comments on the report
Local Ripley County Clerk Ginger Bradford was at the statehouse
in Indianapolis when the report was released. She noted that there
was quite an uproar about many issues, saying she
spoke personally with Chief Justice Randall Shephard. In regards
to not being able to vote on various positions that have always
been elected positions, Bradford said, I feel like it is
taking constitutional rights away from voters to choose local
State Representative Cleo Duncan told The Versailles Republican
while there are some really good points in the report, in regards
to the change in elected officials, I dont think I
can support taking decision making away from the people.
She said there are three things proposed that would make a significant
difference for taxpayers: the shifting of school operating expenses,
school transportation, and welfare costs. Duncan stresses that
the report is a suggestion to be talked about in the next
session. It is not something that she feels will be accepted
in its entirety.
After the report was released, the governor thanked the commission
members for their work. He said he would reserve specific reaction
about recommendations until Hoosiers have had the opportunity
to review the report. He made these comments, First of all
in terms of local government structure, Indiana skipped the 20th
century. We are dealing with a system that is a century and a
half old, and it is in need of modernization. We have too many
of everything and they all cost money. I support the thrust of
this very much. You want to know why property taxes are too high,
heres the answer. You want to know how were going
to get property taxes down and keep them that way, heres
Task group formed
Governor Mitch Daniels asked a small group of volunteers to develop
recommendations to reform and restructure local government in
Indiana in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness
of its operations and reduce its costs to Hoosier taxpayers.
Seven volunteers that included former Indiana Governor Joseph
Kernan, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shephard,
as co-chairs, began the task. Others on the committee are:
Sue Anne Gilroy, former secretary of state
Adam Herbert, former Indiana University president
Louis Mahern, former Indiana State Senator and current
Marion County Library Board Chairman
Ian Rolland, retired Lincoln National Corporation Chairman
John Stafford, former Allen County and Ft. Wayne government
official and current Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne staff member.
The committee said they studied a wide variety of local government
data, studies, proposals, and plans. They heard from citizens,
studied history, conducted interviews with public, private, and
nonprofit groups and more.
In the end, the commission agreed on 27 common sense
recommendations some of which are as follows:
Establish a single-person elected county chief executive.
Establish a single, unified legislative body for county
Transfer the responsibility for administering the duties
of the county auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor,
sheriff and coroner to the county executive.
Transfer the varied duties of the clerk to the courts to
the county election board and the county executive.
Establish objective minimum professional qualifications
and standards for certain county administrative functions.
Retain a local government role for property tax assessment
under a county assessor who is required to meet professional qualifications
and is appointed by the county executive.
Consolidate emergency public safety dispatch by county
or multi-county region.
Duties of assessment, poor relief, fire protection, EMS,
cemeteries, would be transferred to the county executive.
a countywide poor relief levy would be established.
Schools would be reorganized into districts to achieve a minimum
student population of 2,000. Cities and towns would see changes
including moving all municipal elections to an even-cycle year.
The last suggestion was to designate a state office to provide
technical assistance to local government.
Making the changes for office holders with the exception of the
county assessor, would require a constitutional amendment. It
was recommended to immediately transfer the responsibilies of
the county assessor to the present county executive (commissioners)
with the other transitions taking effect no later than January
More recommendations include having a new countywide body oversee
public safety including: police patrol and crime response, fire
suppression, EMS, homicide and other major crimes investigation,
hazardous materials response, forensics, 911 dispatch, jail facility
maintenance, operation and asset management and more.
Benefits to Hoosiers
The committee outlined benefits to Hoosiers that included:
choose fewer officials for key understandable, visible
roles in government
easier to watch government officials at work
fewer local governments
local government more understandable, etc.
money more effectively allocated
local services more professional/less political
To read the report in its entirety you can go online at: http://indianalocalgovreform.iu.edu.
The governor concluded his statements with, The only way
we ever make change is when the public demands it. I think the
days ahead are for the public to digest these ideas, consider
the credibility and sincerity of the people who have brought them
to us and then well all talk about which ones and in which