Tales of Township Turmoil … Part 392

Eric Bradner of the Evansville Courier & Press continues his fine work in outlining the shortcomings of township government. See his latest entry here, with more expected in coming weeks.

The topic (late or not filed at all state-required financial reports) is now new; the reports for fiscal year 2009 (due in the first few months of this year) are missing in action for many. In addition to the story details, even more township trustees (nearly 400 of them) have filed to file an annual salary report. Who knows what interesting numbers are in hiding.

Here’s a brief section of Bradner’s story. It leaves one thinking — once again — why these townships continue to exist.

(In Warrick County), Lane Township Trustee Linda Orth … said she never knew she was supposed to file an annual financial report with the state and was unaware of the switch to an electronic format.

"I am still learning what I am supposed to do and not do," she said. "They change these rules quite regularly, and there is no official training."

Orth was appointed to the position in 2006 because her predecessor quit. She kept the job after that year’s election because no one ran for trustee. She later tried to resign, but said county officials told her she should wait until a replacement was trained. No one was interested.

Report: Township Surpluses Keep Growing

The Evansville Courier & Press continues to nail the true reason for township reform — unnecessary (and costly) duplication of government services. Here’s an excerpt from today’s editorial with a link to the full opinion piece and Sunday’s original article detailing the latest questionable tactics:

But the issue for today is current township government, which is not without its questionable practices. Eric Bradner of the Courier & Press Capitol Bureau exposed such an issue in November when he reported that township governments statewide were sitting in late 2008 on $215 million in surpluses, much of it intended for emergency poor relief.

That’s money that township trustees are to use to help people who need short-term help, say for filling prescriptions or keeping the electricity turned on. At the time, a number of trustees said they were spending much more on emergency relief in 2009 because of the impact of the recession on constituents.

But on Sunday, Bradner reported that financial records indicate otherwise. He said that now, the most recent audits show the statewide township surplus has grown to $263 million among the state’s 1,006 townships.

For example, in Barton Township in Gibson County, in 2009, the township collected $60,000 in taxes, spent $35,000, with the surplus growing to $256,000.

And in German Township in Vanderburgh County, some $291,000 in taxes was collected, $271,000 was spent, increasing the surplus by $20,000 to $164,000. But none was spent directly on poor relief. There, the trustee, Fred Happe, reported referring 20 constituents to other sources of help.

… the pressure would still be on Indiana lawmakers to address the issue of township government, mainly its need, but also the outdated system which allows for the accumulation of millions of taxpayers dollars, especially when state and local governments are challenged to meet basic needs.

It is an election year. Ask the candidates, especially those for state legislature, what they think about township government and whether there might be a better way to administer emergency relief paid for with your tax dollars.

Townships: Closest to the People?

Over the past couple of weeks, the Evansville Courier Press has run several articles on township government. Last weekend, they reported on the Boon Township Trustee in Warrick County who allegedly stole almost $70,000 from township funds (or the taxpayers) over the past two years. If they claim that township government is closest to the people, then familiarity breeds contempt.

Here is an earlier in-depth article on townships.

And here is an editorial.

The services townships provide can easily be more efficiently and effectively offered at the county level.

Gingrich Offers Analysis, Praise for Obama and Daniels at Annual Dinner

With nearly 1,200 in attendance at the Convention Center in Indianapolis last night, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich offered his thoughts on the 2008 election. The Evansville Courier Press has the story:

Gingrich described the historic sweep of Obama’s election as not just the first black candidate elected president, but a son of an immigrant as well. "He brings to bear all the great American traditions, that people can come from anywhere and become American and learn the American system and be integrated into the pursuit of happiness," Gingrich said.

Obama’s rise from an Illinois state senator to U.S. senator to 44th president within the space of four years didn’t happen by accident or luck, Gingrich said. "This is a person who is stunningly disciplined — not just that he is bright, but he is a very disciplined, methodical person."

Gingrich said Obama’s victory and gains made by congressional Democrats were the results of "a failure crisis" by President Bush’s administration and congressional Republicans over their handling of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and federal spending. "I think the Republican Party is struggling to get beyond incompetence," contended Gingrich, who in the mid-1990s was the nation’s highest-ranking Republican elected official. "In my mind, this was a performance election, not an ideological election," he told the Indiana business leaders.