Now, for the wonks out there I'm going to go through each recommendation and give my comments. Seeing as there are 27 recommendations I decided to break it down into two posts. Here's part 1 and I'll have the other half tomorrow. Let me know what you think about any of the specific recommendations
- Establish a single-person elected county chief executive.
- Establish a single, unified legislative body for county government. Expand legislative membership to ensure sufficient representation for included rural suburban and urban populations.
- Transfer the responsibility for administering the duties of the county auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor, sheriff and coroner to the county executive. Transfer the varied duties of the clerk to the courts, the county election board and the county executive. Establish objective minimum professional qualifications and standards for certain county administrative functions.
- Retain a local government role for property tax assessment under a county assessor required to meet professional qualifications and appointed by the county executive.
- Create a countywide body to oversee the provision of all public safety services.
- Consolidate emergency public safety dispatch by county or multi-county region. Require that new, local emergency communications systems be compatible with the Project Hoosier SAFE-T statewide 800MHz communications system.
- Transfer the responsibility for all funding of the state's trial court system to the state, including public defenders and probation
- Move the funding of child welfare from counties to the state
- Transfer the responsibility for administering the duties of township government for assessment, poor relief, fire protectio...(etc) to the county executive. Establish a countywide poor relief levy.
- Transfer the responsibilities of the township small claims courts in Marion County to superior courts.
- Reorganize school districts to achieve a minimum student population of 2000. Establish state standards and county-based planning process similar to that established in 1959 legislation
- Require that school corporation bonds be approved by the fiscal body of the municipal or county government containing the greatest proportion of assessed value in the school district.
- Prompt joint purchasing by schools
- Conduct all non-partisan school elections during November in even years
As you'll soon see this is the recommendation that makes many of the others work. This also makes perfect sense - why have multiple commissioners and a county council all passing the buck? Nobody blinks when discussing the executive branch within a municipality and county government should be the same. If citizens want accountability then there needs to be somebody at the top of the food chain.
The report points out that we're the only state that divides fisacal and legislative decisions between two separate elected bodies. I've pointed out several instances of infighting between the commissioners and the county council here in Allen County. It's time we elect a county "mayor" and consolidate the powers of the commissioners and council into one legislative body. I doubt many citizens even know which body is responsible for what. On several occassions I've had to ask the commissioners that very question.
The report points out that these are not typically thought of as policy positions as they are administrative in nature. I agree with the commission that these positions should not be elected positions. I want the best person for the job and not some political hack from the right party. However, I do believe the county legislative body should have to give their approval in order to maintain some oversight. Appointing the sheriff is likely to be controversial but the report makes a valid point by saying that other law enforcement positions are not elected - i.e. chief of police, FBI director, etc
This seems like a no-brainer as local officials should be assessing local property. However the commission then contradicts itself by saying that the assessment of industrial and commercial property should be done by the state. This is a horrible idea and is an overreaction to the current property tax dustup. Local officials know thier markets better than some state bureacrat does. Ensuring the county assessors meet specific professional qualifications will be more than enough.
This community can't even agree on who should run the 911 call centers let alone all the public safety services. The report points out that that there is a lot of duplication of services here that cost taxpayers money. As an example they cite the fact that city residents pay for both county and city law enforcement. I have a feeling this is where a tremendous amount of cost savings can be achieved. Howver, as President Clinton was fond of saying, good policy doesn't always make for good politics. So how are they going to get this done? The commission recommends a freeze on all public safety levies until the change is made. Good luck
Clearly the dispatch centers should be consolidated - bureaucratic infighting is the only thing holding it back. But I don't know enough about the SAFE-T system to even comment.
This points to one of the commission's guiding principals - things required by the state should be paid for by the state. Citizens should not have unequal access to the legal system due to where they live.
Again, state mandates should be paid for by the state
Readers will remember that this was the subject of a previous post here at FWL where I argued for this very recommendation. The report informs us that "no other state has a universal layer of township government." The commission also believes that the county government is "large enough to allow economies of scale but not so large that they preclude sufficient access for citizens". I agree 100%
Only affects those in Marion county but this seems redundant since the previous recommendation axed the townships altogether.
Ok, this is going to be controversial. Many people enjoy small schools and fear that consolidating districts will take that away. However the commission specifically states that they do not want to consolidate schools:
Indiana has too many school districts and administrators, but Indiana does not have too many schools. We recommend retaining geographically dispersed schools to allow districts to maintain optimal class sizes and serve local populations and needs.
To back up this claim they tell us that Indiana employs fewer instruction personnel than the national average but more non-instructional personell than the national average. That is NOT a where we should be. This could be a post all on its own but suffice to say that I think this one is DOA. Many people base where they live on the school district and they will fight like hell to keep that barrier in place.
Amen. Upon moving here I was simply amazed that the school board was it's own taxing authority. This is a long overdue change for Indiana government. However, the commission does not go far enough as they don't suggest that citizens should be able to remonstrate through a referendum process. The current process is a mess and unfairly stacks the deck against the citizenry. And I reject the idea that citizens will never vote to build new schools. One only needs to look at the most recent FWCS remonstrance process, where the district could've avoided a remonstrance altogether by opting for $300 Million instead of pushing for the full $500 Million, to know that isn't true.
The report points out that very few districts are purchasing items jointly and they recommend that they be required to purchase specific items as part of joint agreements.
Another no-brainer as schoold districts should not be allowed to hold their elections during primary season. Government should strive for higher voter turnout and not the opposite.