Indiana Project for Efficient Local Government
Government exists to provide services people need or want. Local governmental entities in Indiana appropriated more than $4.2 billion in 2002 to deliver such services to their constituents. Those constituents pay for these services, of course, through taxes and other fees, and it is reasonable to believe that they want the most effective and efficient services for their money.
Much of Indiana’s local government structure, however, dates back to the 19th century, 1851 to be exact. Few changes to the basic structure of local government have occurred, despite modern advancements and evolution in thought. This raises significant questions of whether it is best suited for the 21st century and whether today’s residents could be better served.
In 1997, a coalition of business partners from across Indiana initiated a project to study Indiana’s local government structure and to identify duplicate or overlapping government functions among townships, cities, towns and counties. The group adopted the name COMPETE, for Coalition on Monitoring Public Efficiency and Tax Expenditures.
The COMPETE advisory board was comprised of local elected officials, business representatives, agricultural representatives and the leadership of various industry and trade associations throughout Indiana. Through a series of interviews with local government officials and analysis of quantitative information, the advisory board developed a set of recommendations that it felt could improve the effectiveness of Indiana local government. When released, however, the sound fiscal status of Indiana state and local government did not foster an environment for the advancement of such ideas, and much of the report was set aside.
In 2003, certain members of the coalition revisited the issue, to update their work and take the recommendations one step further. The effort, renamed the Indiana Project for Efficient Local Government to better describe its purpose, identified ways that local governments can become more efficient, eliminate duplication of efforts and deliver to their constituents the best services for their money. The original recommendations of the 1999 report were reviewed to determine fiscal impact that may be realized through their implementation.
The findings of the Indiana Project for Efficient Local Government, as detailed in this report, focus on those COMPETE recommendations that could achieve the greatest impacts in efficiency and cost savings. This study is meant to motivate both discussion and action toward the achievement of 21st century local government in Indiana.