Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 15, 2009

Government reform report start of discussion

Support for the initiative is waning, not growing

TIPTON — Two members of the local government reform commission said recommendations were meant to be a starting point for discussions for future change.

Ian Rolland and John Stafford, members of the Kernan-Shephard Commission, met with about 20 residents Friday in a meeting sponsored by the Tipton Chamber of Commerce.

Rolland said the seven-members commission were unified in its belief that the 27 recommendations to transform local government were good.

Those recommendations included a single county executive instead of three commissioners, elimination of township trustees, consolidation of school and library districts, and elimination of some county elective offices.

Rolland said the goal was to make local government more efficient and effective at a reduced cost to taxpayers. He said two studies — done in 1935 and 1970 — brought no changes to the system that has been in place for 180 years.

“Local government is a complicated system that is difficult for taxpayers to navigate,” he said. “County government is a horizontal line, and it’s tough to determine who is responsible.”

Rolland said the most important was a single county executive instead of three county commissioners. He said the executive would appoint people to the administrative offices instead of having elections.

Stafford said the commission started with 12 guiding principles and didn’t expect the recommendations to make it through the legislative process.

“We wanted transparency, so people would know who is making decisions,” he said.

Stafford said commission members all agreed that appointed people should have the ability to determine taxes or debt. He said those decisions should be made by elected officials.

“We were looking for a balance between the number of elected officials and the voice of taxpayers,” he said.

Stafford said two recommendations have been implemented. One being the elimination of most township assessors, and the second requiring by 2014 that each county have no more than two public safety dispatch centers.

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