NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: New proposed legislation decreasing number of townships sensible

Legislation announced by House Republicans last week would reduce the number of townships in Indiana by about a third. We think it’s a good plan to consider because townships are a form of government that operate with high overhead and little oversight.

Under the plan announced in the Legislature on Thursday by House Speaker Brian Bosma, 309 of Indiana’s 1,005 townships would be forced to merge. According to the planned legislation, townships with populations of fewer than 1,200 people would be consolidated into others within five years.

Most of the townships affected would be in rural areas. Of Allen County’s 20 townships, only Scipio (population 414 in the 2010 census) and Jackson (population 504) would be affected. In comparison, Wayne Township has the largest population in the county with 103,803.

Each township is governed by an elected trustee and a three-member advisory board that sets policy and tax rates. Townships provide financial assistance to residents to help pay bills and other expenses. Some townships fund libraries, oversee parks and maintain cemeteries.

However, some townships can’t afford to fund those basic needs due to the declining populations in many rural areas.

Under the new plan every person in Indiana would still be served by a trustee and a board, said Deborah Driskell, executive director of the Indiana Township Association. She told the Indianapolis Star her association supports the proposal as it is currently written in the preliminary draft.

But why reduce the number of townships as well as the number of personnel?

Driskell says reducing the number of trustees and advisory board members, who must have liability insurance and in most cases receive payment for their service, would save money. She also thinks, according to the Star report, that “residents of small townships might receive better firefighting and emergency medical services from mergers that enable them to combine their tax bases.”

The plan reportedly proposes some other changes to township government, including capping the salary for all township board members at $5,000 a year.

The small township merger proposal will be packaged under House Bill 1005.

A plan to consolidate tiny townships into larger ones and save money in the process sounds like responsible government. Let’s get it on the floor for a vote.

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