In 2008, the Indiana General Assembly passed sweeping legislation to put tax caps in place on property taxes depending on the type of property. This caused dramatic distress in many municipal budgets, first trying to ascertain the level of effect and then trying to once again scramble to keep up with State mandates.
These changes were on top of equally dramatic changes in assessing property to try to move to a market based system, and changes in TIF and Redevelopment laws. If you’re anything like our clients, this has all been a whirlwind to you and you’re ready for the Holidays.
What does 2009 hold though? Will Indiana Cities and Towns be hit with yet another set of far reaching reforms and mandates from the state? One group which strongly supports the Kernan-Shephard reforms is suggesting that 2009 could hold even more dramatic changes, especially at the county level. We are NOT endorsing these opinions, but they are important enough to all of us to pause and consider. We welcome your input, and as always please visit our website: Indiana Municipal Finance Consultants
In short order, everything. Three of the twenty-seven recommendations of the Kernan-Shepard Report have been implemented, but with the overwhelming decision by the voters to do away with the majority of the remaining township assessors, legislators are taking note and MySmartgov.org is preparing.
From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
Marilyn Schultz is executive director of Mysmartgov.org, an alliance of interests working to implement the report’s recommendations. She said last week she was encouraged by the voters’ response in townships where assessing duties were put to the question.
“We think we have some momentum from our great success on Election Day,” she said. “A year ago, there were 1,008 township assessors in Indiana, and today we have 13.”
As a former state budget director, Schultz knows the budget-writing task will be foremost on lawmakers’ minds, but she hopes to drive home the point that government must “squeeze the absolute most services from the dollars we have,” insisting on greater efficiency and accountability.
Bills are now being prepared to encompass each of the Kernan-Shepard recommendations, save for the assessing and welfare funding changes already implemented. No legislative sponsors have yet been identified, but Schultz said there are lawmakers willing to carry them all, even the school district consolidation measure that will undoubtedly draw the most fire.
Sen. David Long said this month that the report, prepared by a bipartisan panel, nicely prioritized the local government task ahead.
“We’ll go after the low-hanging fruit first,” he said.
Recommendation one is to replace the three-member board of county commissioners with a single, elected county chief executive, and the second is to combine fiscal and legislative functions of county government in a single, unified council.
Long said he believed there is bipartisan interest in allowing individual counties to determine whether they will adopt the changes.
Look, we understand that the rest isn’t going to be easy to get through. We know that the school consolidation will probably be the hardest part to pass. But we’re encouraged that legislators are listening and getting ready to act.
But as this article notes, and as Jen already mentioned this morning, support is continuing to grow for further consolidation of local government. And if the actions of the Washington Township Board in Marion County isn’t a prime enough example of how township government still thinks it’s safe and needs to be eliminiated, I don’t know what is.
Tired of local government acting like it’s above the law? Tired of it wasting your hard earned tax dollars? Think government should be more efficient and should work for you rather than the other way around, then sign up and get involved!