Indiana Township Association releases report: “Government Consolidation in Indiana: Separating Rhetoric from Reality”
A new report commissioned by the Indiana Township Association raises doubts about expected savings from government consolidation and dispels many of the claims made by the Commission on Local Government Reform (the Kernan-Shepard Commission) and its supporters.
The ITA study, prepared by Wendell Cox of Demographia, states that a primary flaw in the Commission’s report is that the focus was on the means of consolidating government and not on the objective of improving government efficiency.
The Commission’s report began with presumed solutions, such as government consolidation, rather than appropriately beginning with an examination of the true measure of efficiency- government spending. According to the Department of Local Government Finance, township government spending only amounts to 3% of statewide property tax bills.
Cox’s report shows that the “bigger-is-better” theory of government efficiency is NOT supported by the data.
Overall, the international and national evidence does not indicate a relationship between local government consolidation and greater efficiency.
There are a number of reasons why local government consolidations fail to save money, according to Cox. “Some barriers are operational, such as the necessity to harmonize labor costs and service levels, which typically rise to that of the highest consolidating jurisdiction, throughout the entire new jurisdiction.”
The report continues, “One of the most important barriers is the reduced accountability that occurs as governments become more remote from voters and more accessible to spending interests, which naturally tends to increase expenditures in the longer run.”
Another myth uncovered is that, contrary to popular understanding, Indiana does not have a substantially higher number of governments than other states. Indiana has fewer elected officials per 10,000 residents than the national average. As with the number of local governments, the report’s data show there is no relationship between the number of local elected officials and capita taxation.
Furthermore, a review indicates that there is no relationship between the number of governments and per capita state and local taxation at the state level.
The Kernan-Shepard Commission also criticized the alleged duplication of services that results from having “too many” layers of local government. However, township services are not duplicative. In geographical areas where townships arrange for fire service, no other local government provides fire services. Townships provide all township assistance, a public service not provided by any other level of government.
Finally, the report concludes that it is likely that the Commission’s recommendation to consolidate township governments into county governments will cost taxpayers more and make local government in Indiana less efficient.
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