House Bill 1177 – Township Government Issues
Authored by Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville)

Requires a township to prepare a capital improvement plan for the ensuing three years if the balance in certain capital improvement funds in the preceding year exceeds 150% of the township’s annual budget estimate. Prohibits the township from collecting property taxes for certain capital improvement funds in the ensuing year unless the township has adopted a capital improvement plan. Requires the Legislative Council to assign to the appropriate interim study committee the study of: (1) the level of preparedness of volunteer fire departments; and (2) whether volunteer fire departments have the necessary resources to perform their duties.

Chamber Position: Support

The Latest: Held in Local Government Reform Committee, with some amendments likely.

Chamber Action/Commentary: While the Chamber believes there is a lot more that could be accomplished in terms of township government reform, this bill nonetheless takes a couple small steps and is worthy of support. First, it requires a capital improvement plan when cash balances are excessive. This provision is primarily designed to achieve greater transparency. Some townships claim they need to build up funds in order to make future, substantial capital improvements. Fine, but they should be obligated to let the taxpayers in on that game plan. The public deserves to be informed of such expenditures and the plan should be vetted at a public hearing. And importantly, that plan should be followed. These things are fundamental to good governance.

The second part of the bill calls for a study of volunteer fire departments, which are the mechanism through which a majority of townships provide fire protection to its citizens. Volunteer fire departments are facing increasing challenges in terms of personnel and resources. A study would serve to better identify the typical arrangements between townships and volunteer departments, as well as determine how those departments’ needs might be fulfilled and fire protection enhanced.  The chairman of the Local Government Reform Committee and co-author of the bill, Rep. Kevin Mahan (R-Hartford City), sought input on any additional provisions that might contribute to the objectives of this bill. The Chamber was invited to and will participate in these subsequent discussions.

Resource: Bill Waltz at (317) 264-6887 or e-mail: [email protected]