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Saturday, October 17, 2009

There is an Immediate Need to Reform County Government for Fiscal Solvency


With the talk of going green our society is faced with regulating energy output to its most efficient level. Along those lines of efficiency there are proposals to trim back everything from energy consumption to the structure of our local government.

The state of Indiana has 92 counties. Its structure represents government erected over 150 years ago. In 2007 Governor Mitch Daniels assembled a blue ribbon task force under the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. See (http://indianalocalgovreform.iu.edu/assets/docs/Report_12-10-07.pdf) for the full report.

The group consisting of policy analysts, former political leaders, and research assistants was assigned the task of evaluating ways to streamline local government. The effort took place under the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment.

Would Indiana benefit from eliminating the county commissioner structure and replacing it with a single county administrator?

As I began to research more on this topic and the national documentation of related decisions, I ran across an article written by Penn State University Professor of Policy Beverly Cigler who has written extensively on the topic.

According to Prof. Cigler there is no separation of power in the current structure. Many states have adopted a review of county government in preparation of proposing painstaking changes.

“County governments should be led by a single county executive and a stronger county council, to whom professionally qualified administrators should report and be accountable,” according to former Indiana Governor Joseph Kerns (D).

The report assembled by the task force also suggests
Local government should be more transparent, allowing citizens to better understand whom to hold accountable—whom to thank or blame—for decisions, actions and spending.

The current Governor suggests, based on a Ball State study, that nearly $630 million can be freed up because of streamlining county government. For those in opposition there stands little chance to justify why our 92 counties would not want to save the tax payers money.

This is by no means a loss of services or a reduction in the quality of service. It is a calculated effort to bring solvency to our economic efforts of relief.

In Indiana, including cities, schools, libraries, counties and towns there are over 3000 local governments.

The massive overhaul of county governance has its opposition and would be a daunting task.

Without diminishing the role and responsibilities of the public servants who serve in positions of county government, it is respectfully noted that adopting the suggestions of the Indiana Commission on Local Governance Reform would in fact duly position the State of Indiana for a progressive future.

Government has never gotten smaller since its inception; however, some jurisdictions have packaged an efficient model that I believe we should follow.

This model may be one of the most difficult to implement because of the number of positions it would eliminate, but for the future of our communities it is a proposal that each tax payer should consider with prudent measure.

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