Abolishing township boards is foolish

By Scott Tibbs, March 20, 2019

If the Indiana state legislature thinks that abolishing township boards will improve transparency and accountability in township government, they are wrong. It would make things worse. The county council does have oversight now, as does the state board of accounts, so by eliminating township boards the state legislature would actually be removing a level of oversight.

In Monroe County alone: There is simply no way that a seven-member county council will provide the same oversight of the 11 trustees as 33 township board members. If there are problems with what the trustee is doing, less oversight will make it worse, not better. The council already has a lot of work to do, as does the county auditor. Adding increased oversight of township government finances to the existing duties of the auditor and council will make it less likely that abuse will be caught, not more likely.

Township board members are not paid well. Each board member in Perry Township gets about $3300 a year. That is less that one percent of the total township budget of over one million dollars. If you find waste and abuse of finances, you will find it in what the township trustee is doing, not the township board's pittance of a salary. This is not a high-profile, politically powerful position. The trustee has more power than the board does.

You can make the case for abolishing township government completely and moving the duties to county government. I am not convinced at this time that would be good policy, because centralizing power could make it less efficient and slower. When people need emergency assistance, that is not something we want to have, and the trustee can move faster than a county-level agency would be able to move. With that said, I can be convinced that abolishing townships would be a good idea. However, getting rid of township boards while leaving everything else intact is foolish. The legislature was right to reject that scheme.

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