Ind. Township Government Targeted for Elimination

Published March 1, 2008

One recommendation of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform is to eliminate township government in Indiana.

Township government duties, which include performing property tax assessments and providing financial relief to the poor, would be transferred to the county executive.

Henry County Councilman Nate LaMar (R) said support among the public and state legislators for township government is “fading fast.”

Wayne County Commissioner Ken Paust (R) agreed.

“I think they [lawmakers] are going to do something this session about townships. The anger over property taxes almost guarantees that,” Paust said.

Uniform Property Assessment

The main goal of eliminating township government would be to provide a more uniform approach to assessing property. When property tax bills went out in Indianapolis in 2007, many homeowners criticized the assessment as unfair and complained the bills varied wildly from house to house or from one year to the next.

That is exactly what the commission hopes to stop, according to former Gov. Joe Kernan (D), who co-chaired the commission.

“Assessors within the same community all need to be uniform, or somebody is going to end up paying more in taxes than they should,” Kernan said.

Lots of Finger Pointing

Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes (D) said there is a lot of “finger pointing” by elected officials when something goes wrong.

“There is a diffusion of responsibilities. There is no ‘the buck stops here’ mentality,” Bowes said.

Bowes said little can be done if an officeholder is incompetent, citing a township assessor in Marion County who left the office in “shambles.”

“He didn’t like computers, so no records were computerized. The incoming assessor had to clean up that mess,” Bowes said. Marion County includes Indianapolis, Indiana’s largest city and the state capital.

Nick Baker