Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 26, 2014

Merge our townships

Kokomo Tribune

---- — State Rep. Mike Karickhoff has authored five bills and co-authored five more for the 2014 legislative session.

“My focus continues to be on giving local communities the power and flexibility to handle issues that come up in local neighborhoods and throughout the county,” the Kokomo Republican told us last week.

House Bill 1194 is a good example. It authorizes an additional county tax rate aimed at offsetting local government revenue losses due to tax caps on property.

But it’s House Bill 1267, which Karickhoff co-authored, that really got our attention. On Jan. 1, 2019, in every county except Marion County, the bill says, all townships will merge into a single entity.

Finally, perhaps, our state legislators will take seriously the consolidation recommendations of the Commission on Local Government Reform. Some in Howard County did. Center Township Trustee Jean Lushin was among them, as were the boards of Clay, Howard and Liberty townships.

All voted to take to referendum a proposal to consolidate townships along school corporation boundaries.

The Ervin and Union township boards? Not so much. Despite their failure to respond to the consolidation plan, people in the Eastern and Northwestern school districts still voted on township mergers in 2012.

The plan failed.

A survey of 452 registered voters discovered 61 percent were in favor of some sort of township merger, Lushin told us in 2011. And 35 percent of those advocating consolidation supported reducing townships within school districts.

Though we believe Howard County easily could coordinate fire protection, maintain cemeteries and take care of poor relief, we recognize Hoosiers vote from their front porches.

If their trash gets collected, if their streets get paved and plowed, they believe all is right with the world. As evidenced by the study committee survey, consolidating our townships appears more palatable to voters than the elimination of township government altogether.

House Bill 1267 is assigned the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee. It should wind up on the governor’s desk before the end of this session.