By Chris Cotterill
Jul 29, 2014
Unfortunately, recent reports from township government in Marion County reveal that only 19 cents of every tax dollar meant to assist the poor actually went to those in need. The other 81 cents went somewhere else, and that added up to more than $36 million that could be put to better use in our community every year.
Though I’m relying on the numbers townships report to the State, let’s say I’m off by 100%. That’s still only 38 cents per dollar and still more than $18 million per year that could be dedicated to better programs for job assistance, crime prevention, early childhood care, and other programs that improve lives. But, what do we get for the income tax and property tax you pay to your Marion County township?
Last month, I sent a public records request to our trustees, and here are some things that stood out in the responses:
- In addition to having the highest paid trustee in the county at $94,094.82, Center Township also has a “CEO” who is paid $70,000. (Don’t forget their prior CFO who was found to have been paid $173,236 in 2010….)
- Last year, Decatur Township paid its trustee more than the office provided in assistance to those in need.
- The Wayne and Center trustees have a “take home” car, which is a car paid for with taxpayer funds and used as a personal car.
- Center Township has more than 50 employees. Compare this with Warren Township’s 7 employees who provide assistance to a very similar total population with similar socio-economic factors.
- The Franklin Township small claims court judge makes $105,000, which is about $30,000 more than any other township small claims court judge.
- Wayne Township’s seven part-time board members are each paid $8,664 annually, which is 288% higher than their counterparts in Decatur are paid.
On top of all this, Pike, Wayne, and Decatur townships spent more than $69 million collectively on fire protection that could have been provided by the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) at a lower tax rate. If Wayne Township consolidated into IFD, for example, Wayne Township schools would recognize a $3.4 to $4.6 million annual increase in funding because of the way property tax caps work. Imagine what several million dollars could do to help families in Wayne Township.
Trustees do make good decisions too, of course. For example, the Washington Township trustee used funds left over from the days of having a fire department to build a new fire station for IFD in the township. The Lawrence Township trustee opened a new food pantry recently. There are other examples. But, as well-intentioned as the public servants in townships are, we have a shortage of money and an excess of need. We must put our limited resources to better use.
This requires the General Assembly to change state law. It should transition township assistance to the Marion County Health Department to institute programs in partnership with effective non-profits to better help those in need and it should complete township fire consolidation into IFD.
The facts in favor of such reforms are overwhelming. But, perhaps the one more thing we need to do is change the label from “township” government to “federal” government. Then, there would surely be outrage! The difference, of course, is we actually have the power to fix this.
If we finally do, let’s start by giving those take home cars to the 10 Point Coalition so they can be used for crime prevention.