Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ax The Townships

The JG has an excellent editorial in today's paper describing why the state should eliminate township assessor positions:
Of Indiana’s 1,008 township assessors, 567 lack the certification that qualifies them to determine the values of property. In essence, more than half of the people in key positions to determine the amount of property tax bills are unqualified.

Accurate assessments are the foundation of the property-tax system, essential in determining whether property owners pay their fair share in comparison with other property owners. When assessments are wrong, some people get an undeserved break, and others pay more than they should.

The fact that we have unqualified partisan assessors makes absolutely no sense. In fact I would suggest we go one step further and eliminate the entire township construct altogether. It's a wasteful, antiquated bureaucracy that adds no real value. Does anybody really believe we need a layer of government for every 6x6 mile square in the state?

The services provided at the township level could easily be rolled up to the county (or city) which would likely save taxpayer dollars and provide better service. If state officials are serious about saving money then they can start by axing all the townships...

16 comments:

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Jeff:

Isn't the suggestion being made that the county assessor will take over? This is a partisan position, so I don't see how it removes partisanship from the issue.

In fact, it makes the liklihood of one-party domination of the assessor's office more likely, at least in Allen County. I would think this is about as partisan as you can get.

Eric White said...

Jeff,

I will agree that there are certain instances where having township government seems pretty asinine. Not many people identify with, or even know the boundaries of, their township.

There may be some cost savings in eliminating townships, but I wouldn't say that it would result in better service.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Charlotte,

More people would need to be hired into county govt and these would be career positions and not partisan ones. So in total there would be fewer partisan positions.

Eric,
You might be right. I base my argument on the fact that career positions would likely get filled by candidates that had more experience. The fact that we have so many assessors w/o certification lends credence to that argument...

J Q Taxpayer said...

I would support doing away with the township government because it no longer applys for the most part. However, fire protection and EMS service are still a key issues that would need to be addressed.

bobett said...

My question: What happens to the overall community if it loses surrounding townships?

Do we gain individualism.
Or does the community become a box market entity like Wal-Mart,
Subway, McDonald, Pizza-Hut and the like.

I'm sorry the township accessors
in the Fort Wayne area provide a unique service. They know this area, follow the rules, and make sure we are not taken advantage of
by the likes of big City & State
government. Absolutely do not give over the power of townships to the City Of Fort Wayne or The City Of Indianapolis Or to the State of Indiana.

There are better ways to save money then axing leardership in townships...especially township assessors. Where will the balence & checks come from and who the heck will answer a call if there is a problem? I like townships!

J Q Taxpayer said...

Bobett,
The township assessor would be under the County. Not the city or state!

I fought with a township assessor on my new home when it was built. It took my attorney writing a letter that promised we would see his/her rear in court if they did not refigure the value of the property. I hardly call that a good system.

bobett said...

jq taxpayer,

It appears you hired an attonery because your situation was unique. I believe you could have requested your property tax card in person or online.

In fact, asking questions at the assessors office is easy whether on the phone or in person. Your situation must have been unique.

Of course, hiring an attonery was eaiser because then you did not have to figure out the process
of filing any property tax forms on your own behalf.

bobett said...

So, if we get rid of the county
township assessor
where will
we ask questions about our property taxes? Oh the City/County/State government entity?

Eric White said...

I think that there is room for gains in efficiency, but combining everything into one great big bureaucracy isn't necessarily the answer.

I don't have a problem with centralizing some of the responsibility (i.e. one accessor with several deputies responsible for smaller areas), but axing the township trustees would be a disservice to the rural parts of the county and state. The trustees are elected by the people in their respective townships. Eliminating them and turning their responsibilities over to the county means that the voting public in Fort Wayne end up with all of the power, just like they do with County Council and the Commissioners.

Kevin said...

I am NOT in favor of eliminating Township Government. And I suspect that the majority of the public will agree with me. Here's why:

The Township Trustee issues poor relief. The folks in Aboite will have NO desire to pay taxes to support those in Wayne Township.

The taxing rates differ between townships based on things like- EMS/Fire Protection, Poor relief, etc.

The better solution is to FORCE assessors to be certified.

Having said that- you could convince me that eliminating assessors from smaller townships makes some sense.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Everybody wants their little piece of turf and once you start talking about change people freak out and think somebody's out to get them.

I agree that there are issues to be worked out and how and where the balance of power shifts is an important detail. But we do not need a layer of govt for every 36 sq miles in the state - I would venture to say that 90+% of people agree with that.

Saying that poor relief will be eliminated or drastically cut is a little overly dramatic. It will be interesting to see what Tuesday's report released by the Kernan Commission says on this topic.

I think they'll recommend axing townships or at the very least consolidating them...

Jon Olinger said...

Bobett

I assure you JQ's situation is not unique. Getting a copy of the property tax card is not difficult, nor is it the problem. The margin of error of the assessed value of Fort Wayne Real Estate is on average about 50%. As a realtor I have consulted on dozens of appeal cases in which the property value in question did not even resemble market value (the target set by the court of appeals). Yes the assessor is usually helpful, but their lack of knowledge of market value in the area is why we have hired out of state mass appraisal firms to value our local real estate. In truth our “market value" used by the assessor's offices was provided to them by an agency in Chicago.

The actual problem is that our property taxes are too high. Removing the assessor from the picture will not reduce our property taxes, nor will it make it easier to get a fair assessment from a county or state level assessor. If government truly wants to solve the property tax crisis it will reign in its spending. Every level of government is sucking the homeowner and taxpayer dry... The fixes proposed are short term and will only provide further avenues of revenue for government to spend in the future...

Solve the tax crisis....spend less.

Vic DeMize said...

What exactly are the qualifications to be certified and how in Hell did these people get the job without meeting them?

Jon Olinger said...

The township assessors are elected and do not have to be certified assessors when elected. Certification as an assessor is a joke however, as the classes required do not provide an understanding of market economics or understanding of real property appraisal process for the assessor to have any concept of what is required in determining market value of real property.

Vic DeMize said...

... so the whole issue of certification is just a smokescreen to rouse the rabble?

Robert Enders said...

The purpose of townships was so that everyone could have a government office within one day's travel time. Through the magic of the internal combustion engine, I can travel across the state faster than my ancestors could travel across the county.

I think townships are obsolete today. But if the oil supply ever runs out, Heaven forbid, then the survivors of the resulting chaos will need townships.