Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

September 4, 2013

Merge our townships

We’ve got good government in Howard County. Property tax bills are mailed on time. Every resident has access to a library. And our five public school systems nurture achievement while keeping an eye on spending.

It’s understandable then that some here don’t recognize as needed the recommendations of the Commission on Local Government Reform, despite the fact Center Township has $7.4 million in cash reserves, Taylor Township has banked more than twice the amount its spends each year, and Harrison Township’s tax rate for fire protection has nearly doubled, as we reported Sunday.

But within the last few years, the commission’s suggestions for government consolidation have gotten the attention of locals.

Count Center Township Trustee Jean Lushin among them, and the boards of Clay, Howard and Liberty townships as well. All voted to take to referendum a proposal to consolidate Howard County 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 last November.

The Northwestern measure was defeated by a total of 200 votes in Clay, Ervin and Howard townships. Liberty and Jackson townships approved consolidation along the boundaries of Eastern Schools, but voters in Union Township rejected it.

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 the 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.

We urge Howard County voters and government leaders not to let this initiative be forgotten. Let’s dust off the consolidation plan and work to merge our townships.

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