Inside INdiana Business has the good news today regarding MySmartgov’s success on Election Day. Many voters in the state supported moving township assessing duties to the counties — a move that was encouraged by the Kernan-Shepard Report and supported by the Indiana Chamber.
Voters in 31 of the 43 townships where township assessors still existed called for uniform assessments and fair taxation yesterday by voting to eliminate township assessors.
“Voters across the state cried ‘Enough!’ loudly and clearly,” said Marilyn Schultz, executive director of MySmartgov.org, an organization formed to advocate for streamlined local government. “Their votes were a resounding call for change in the antiquated, redundant and unfair way that property has been assessed in Indiana for far too long.”
The decisive vote is an unambiguous sign to members of the General Assembly that Hoosiers want to update and streamline their local government, most of which was established to meet 19th-century needs. Lawmakers will be asked during the upcoming legislative session to enact additional reforms recommended by the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform.
The bipartisan commission, commonly known as the Kernan-Shepard Commission, studied local government in Indiana and in December 2007 issued a report with 27 specific recommendations to cut bureaucracy and streamline government. As its name suggests, the commission was led by former Gov. Joe Kernan and Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who accepted the task at the request of Gov. Mitch Daniels.
“We expect lawmakers will take notice of these votes, many of which were lopsidedly in favor of reform, and echo the wisdom of their constituents,” Schultz said. “The referenda set the stage for meaningful changes in Indiana’s outdated local government system.”
MySmartgov.org will continue to enlist reform-minded individuals and organizations across the state who will press their legislators to adopt the Kernan-Shepard reforms. Supporters can go to the organization’s Web site – the URL is the same as its name – to sign up to receive updates during the legislative session and to get help contacting their legislators.
A year ago, Indiana had 1,008 township assessors across its 92 counties. As a result of legislative action and the referenda, it now has only 12 in eight counties. Schultz said local influences – not necessarily opposition to streamlined government – likely caused those townships to vote against the measure. “These referenda and reforms for the future are not about personalities,” she said. “It’s a shame that personalities transcended the issue of fair taxation in a few communities, because good leaders will always be called on to serve their communities, if in some other capacity.”
In Northwest Indiana, the issue may have been overwhelmed by competing political messages, especially because that part of the state is in the Chicago media market, she said.