Allen County Referendum Is a Good Start: Could Indiana Eventually Replace Elected Assessors with Appointed Tax Administrators?

by Faegre Baker Daniels
Contact

Allen County Referendum Is a Good Start:  Could Indiana Eventually Replace Elected Assessors with Appointed Tax Administrators?

To the great credit of the General Assembly and Governor Pence, House Bill 1346 was enacted to allow Allen County voters to decide if they want to transition from a three-member county board of commissioners, which has executive and legislative powers, to a single county executive balanced by a county council having fiscal and legislative powers. The referendum will be held this fall.

I am excited to see the voters of Allen County given this opportunity, and I hope the General Assembly will take the next step to allow other counties this type of opportunity.

In a state where we profess to value limited, cost-effective government, we continue to elect nine other county officials: assessor, auditor, clerk, coroner, prosecutor, recorder, sheriff, surveyor, and treasurer. And, that does not include three-member board of commissioners (in all counties but Marion where we have Unigov) and county councils.

This antiquated system has numerous downsides. Just to name a few:

  • Many voters do not know or care about these offices—sheriff and prosecutor excluded—because they do not have a direct impact on the quality of their lives.
  • County property administration-related functions are divided up between the assessor, treasurer, recorder, and surveyor. This not only leads to unnecessary overhead costs, it means that taxpayers often have to visit multiple offices to address a property related issue.
  • In recent years, the General Assembly has effectively made the positions of assessor and coroner appointed positions because of the variety of technical requirements added for each of the offices. These requirements were intended to ensure competence to do the job, but few people with those capabilities seem to run for office leaving it to the parties to find someone.
  • For the 91 counties with three-member boards of commissioners, three CEOs does not make sense—especially when they have legislative powers, but not fiscal powers.

So, let’s put this question, which Allen County will vote on this November, to the other counties with boards of commissioners:

  • Shall the county government be reorganized to place all executive powers in a single county executive and to place all legislative and fiscal powers in the county council?

And, let’s not stop there. Here are two other questions all counties should be asked:

  • Shall the elected offices of county assessor, recorder, surveyor, and treasurer be eliminated with the functions of those offices combined into a position of chief property tax administrator appointed by the elected county executive subject to the approval of the elected county fiscal body?

A yes vote will lead to one appointed official to manage property related functions more efficiently. This person will be a qualified individual who is not encumbered by fundraising and running for office. The county executive and fiscal body, the Property Tax Board of Appeals, the State Board of Accounts, and the laws set by the General Assembly will continue to ensure necessary checks and balances remain in place.

  • Shall the elected office of county coroner be eliminated with the functions of that office transferred to state government?

Let’s transition the coroner’s office to the Indiana State Department of Health, or another department of state government, so that a regional approach with medical examiners can be instituted over time.

There are other ways to do this, of course. But, virtually any approach that results in the elimination of the elected offices of coroner, recorder, and surveyor and strikes a more streamlined balance between the assessor, auditor, treasurer, and county executive will be tremendous progress.

Many of the people who hold those offices (and those who do not want those officeholders to run for an office they hold) can be expected to oppose such reforms. We can expect them to say the following, among other things:

  • These issues need to be studied again and these particular questions are poorly worded. (Hearings in the General Assembly will sufficiently address such concerns.)
  • This is too much consolidation of power. (Do we not already have a county executive, county fiscal body, State Board of Accounts, Department of Local Government Finance, and the laws of the General Assembly to provide sufficient checks and balances?)
  • This is too much change, too fast. (The property tax crisis led to the elimination of about 1,000 township assessors who were replaced by their existing county assessors. That transition went just fine. And, these transitions will be planned out over the course of years. No elected official will be removed before the end of his or her term.)
  • There are good people in these jobs. (Of course there are! But, no one is entitled to a government job. Any transition will include efforts to ensure each and every public servant is helped through the process.)

If these ideas get legs in the next legislative session, opponents might try to add more so as to kill it. Why not the prosecutor, sheriff, clerk, and auditor to boot? No serious case has been made to eliminate the prosecutor. Administration of county law enforcement relative to city and towns, the state police, and the Indiana Department of Correction does require more consideration. The clerk is rightly positioned as an independent election official (though the balance of that office’s responsibilities with the courts should be considered). As for the auditor, I would keep the independence of the small administrative office as a check and balance on the distribution of funds to local units in the county and on the issuance of county checks (but have the county executive prepare and manage to the budget, overseen by the council).

The Allen County referendum is a good step forward. Let’s take great steps forward along these lines in the next legislative session.

This post originally appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal’s blog INforefront on June 5, 2014, which can be viewed here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Faegre Baker Daniels | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Faegre Baker Daniels
Contact
more
less

Faegre Baker Daniels on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!