The reason the Indiana Chamber continues to push for local government reform is the opportunity to provide more effective services with more efficient use of taxpayer money.
The fact that some township trustees continue to draw the scrutiny and action of authorities only adds to the logic of modernizing Indiana’s local government system. A portion of the latest from Lake County (the Northwest Indiana Times has the full story):
FBI and IRS agents raided the Calumet Township Trustee’s office and removed boxes full of documents and at least one computer shortly after noon Thursday as part of a federal investigation of the office.
Bob Ramsey, the supervisory agent for the FBI office in Merrillville, said his office, the Internal Revenue Service in Merrillville and state police are taking part in a joint operation.
Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin, who operates one of the largest township government units in the state, couldn’t be reached for comment. She has been under official scrutiny for her office’s spending on assistance to Gary’s low income residents and the use of take-home cars.
The state has been threatening to take over the finances of her office if she doesn’t reduce administrative costs. Elgin is suing Gov. Mike Pence to stop enforcement of a 2013 law that would significantly reduce her control over more than $5 million in annual spending.
The law requires Elgin to reduce the property tax rate supporting her township assistance program to less than 12 times the average of the state’s 1,008 townships. Calumet Township’s tax rate has been as much as 22.6 times the state average. Elgin said her tax rate is much lower when the impact of state-mandated property tax cuts are calculated.
A Times investigation found her office spent almost as much on employees’ salaries and benefits and business vendors, as it did on direct assistance for emergency shelter, utilities, health care and food. Elgin puts her administrative costs at 37 percent of her budget.