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Council approves township budgets

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

But president still doesn't understand why

TELL CITY - County Council President Pete Franzman said after approving four township budgets and tabling one for more information Monday he still doesn't understand why the state legislature gave the council that responsibility.

The council approved in a special meeting the budgets for Anderson, Clark, Leopold and Union townships.

"We have no authority," Franzman said of the nonbinding reviews county councils are obligated to make for most taxing entities in their counties under House Enrolled Act 1001, enacted in March. "If we see something out of line, I guess we're supposed to bring it up."

"That's how I understand it," agreed Councilman Alan Cassidy.

Anderson Township Trustee Becky Hagedorn said she met with a representative of the state's Department of Local Government Finance.

"We were told you can't change it," she said of township budgets, which are independent of the county budget.

The News reported Jan. 17 that an Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform recommended, among other things, the elimination of the township level of government.

Township real-property assessment duties were transferred to the county assessor at the beginning of this year under a 2005 law that required them to attain a certification by the end of 2007. The trustee-assessors in Perry County said they couldn't afford to leave their other responsibilities for the week required to earn the certification.

Franzman said the council tries to hold increases to 3 or 4 percent when examining budgets for upcoming years. Anderson Township's proposed budget for 2009, projected at $12,510, won the council's approval after he noted it's only $300 more than this year's.

Except for Troy Township, the other budgets contained similarly small increases and were also approved.

Troy Township's budget reflected a jump of more than 10 percent, however, prompting the council to defer action until a regular council meeting scheduled for today. Township Trustee Pat Reed was to be asked to attend.

Franzman said after Monday's meeting a special meeting was necessary because several of the township boards needed the council's approval of their budgets before their own meetings, scheduled for before today's council meeting.

He also reiterated a frustration he voiced at a July 31 meeting he feels about the new responsibility. The council had just approved budgets for Oil and Tobin townships, and he said, "I think it's amazing they think we can review these, and we don't know a thing about them. Some of the things they've done under 1001 are a big farce."

"The only thing that I wonder is if down the road, when money becomes even tighter than it is now, if they're going to say, well, the county council OK'd it," Franzman said Monday. "I think maybe they're setting the county council up to be the scapegoat, I don't know. It's hard to figure anything else out for this."

He's also suspicious about a recommendation from the local-government-reform commission to replace each county's three commissioners with a single county executive.

"All you have to do is Google 'Kentucky judge executives' and look at how many charges have been brought against a system that has one person in charge, as they're trying to do in Indiana, putting one commissioner in charge," he said.

"When our forefathers set up county government, they had the foresight to have a division of power, with a legislative and a fiscal body. I question why you would want to take the power away from the voters and put it into an appointed hand."

A county executive would be "the supreme being of the county," he continued, with the power to make appointments to a number of county offices now held by elected officials.

"Right now if the people don't like something that's going on, they can throw you out. It may take four years, but they can do it. When you've got somebody making appointments, it's a little different situation."