Lt. Gov. Pitches Local Gov’t Reform Ideas
Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Local governments across Indiana could ask voters for approval to go beyond property tax caps if a new proposal from Lieutenant Governor Beck Skillman becomes law.
After travelling to 27 counties to hold roundtable meetings with local elected officials, Skillman has assembled a report containing several local government reform recommendations to the state’s lawmakers.
“These ideas come straight from local elected leaders, who witness firsthand all the benefits and consequences of state government and legislative action,” Lt. Governor Skillman said. “As a former county official and legislator, I know collaboration can lead to giant leaps forward in the way we provide services to Hoosiers.”
Skillman said a common concern during those meetings was insufficient tax revenue for municipalities.
Indiana’s constitution was amended in 2010 to limit property taxes to one percent on homes, two percent on farmland, and three percent for businesses. The caps saved taxpayers millions, but reduced the amount of funding for city, town, and county governments who relied on the income.
In response to the funding problem, the Lieutenant Governor’s plan would allow local governments to seek a referendum from local voters to go above the cap.
Skillman’s proposals also address nepotism, conflicts of interest among local elected leaders, and streamlining township government.
Here are the proposed changes from Lt. Gov. Skillman, as detailed in a news release:
Allow a Referendum for Cities, Towns, and Counties – Give local units of government the same ability that schools have to seek a referendum for additional operating expenses.
Infrastructure Funding – Allow cities, towns, and counties the freedom to transfer reserves to funding for local roads and streets. This would allow local governments at the end of the Fiscal Year to move surplus money from the Rainy Day Fund, cumulative funds, or the General Fund to funding dedicated to roads and streets.
911 Funding – The General Assembly needs to find a revenue solution for the administration of 911 services. As land line telephones become less common, a new funding mechanism needs to be adopted.
Professionalism – General Assembly should adopt anti-nepotism and conflict of interest statutes for local elected officials.
Township Government – Allow two options to streamline township government
1. Eliminate Township Advisory Boards outright and move fiscal authority to the county, and/or
2. Align townships with the three existing county commissioner districts. Townships would elect one administration for all townships contained in the district.
Legal Advertising – Broaden the options for required legal advertising for local governments to include online and other outlets.
1. Encourage local governments to adopt centralized purchasing within their unit and explore joint purchasing with other units of local government.
2. Encourage state government to allow local units of government to joint purchase fuel, IT equipment, and other items with the State.
Pre-Approved Infrastructure Plans – State government should develop pre-approved model plans for local infrastructure projects such as streets, sidewalks, and water infrastructure. Shovel-ready design standards will save local units millions in consulting and planning fees that often make projects cost-prohibitive.
Professionalism – State government should develop a standard of excellence for city, town, and county officials who meet professional and fiscal model standards adopted by OMB, DLGF, and SBA. State government agencies should also utilize technology during training so local officials can learn remotely without the burden and cost of travel.
No bill including Skillman’s proposed reforms has been filed yet, according to the Associated Press. The Indiana 2012 legislative session begins Wednesday.