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would still be on Indiana lawmakers to address the issue of township government, mainly its need, but also the outdated system which allows for the accumulation of millions of taxpayers dollars, especially when state and local governments are challenged to meet basic needs.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

Too Many Governments … Here and Elsewhere

Indiana needs local government efficiency. It didn’t happen legislatively in 2009, but it will return next year. The Chamber and its allies won’t rest until taxpayer dollars are treated as gold, nepotism and outright fraud become relics of the past and our state moves away from a system that is now nearly 160 years old.

We, of course, are not on an island. A Kansas researcher lists his home state and four neighbors as topping the list in fewest residents per government unit. Yes, they (for the most part) share rural characteristics, but that in itself is not a valid excuse. Paul Soutar writes:

While government efficiency may be a challenge for large rural states, it’s not an insurmountable one.  Utah is very close to Kansas in terms of population and area, with 2,645,330 residents and 82,144 square miles, but has 9,761 residents per general-purpose government.

The difference is not a matter of geography or population but instead the number of governments.  Kansas has 2,084, compared with 244 in Idaho and 271 in Utah.

Read the full story.

Evidence of Township Mismanagement Continues to Grow

For the last 14 months — to the day (the Kernan-Shepard report was released December 11, 2007) — the Indiana Chamber and allies have touted local government reform and pointed out the absurdities in our no longer viable township system. Today, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar presented new information in his testimony on Senate Bill 512.

Consider the following. Is this really how we want our taxpayer dollars spent?

  • The trustee who doubled her own salary — without authorization — and gave her husband (the deputy trustee, of course, who didn’t know he had that role) a 63% increase
  • Or the one who altered 46 checks (with a nearly $21,000 price tag) and overpaid himself by more than $15,000, all while being in office for 22 months
  • How about the trustee who paid himself an entire year’s salary and 12 months of rent for keeping his office in his home — all on January 1

Reports of nepotism have been rampant. Some, however, don’t bother hiring family members. They just give themselves multiple jobs and taxpayer funds. One township board member doubled as township clerk and tripled her take as cemetery caretaker. Another added the roles of emergency assistance investigator and deputy assessor.

There are hundreds of examples of sloppiness, neglect and criminal behavior. Brinegar’s full testimony is available here. Read it for yourself, get mad and do something about it.