14 August 2007

Endangered species: Township Trustee

Seems like the value of local, Indiana township trustees is being discussed more heavily these days. That's probably a fair discussion to have, since most folks have no idea what or who their trustee does or is. Most folks can't tell you what township they are even in.

In Indiana, the township trustee is charged with 1) administering poor relief 2) maintaining cemeteries & selling plots 3) providing for fire protection 4) completing tax assessments for personal property, business & farm equipment-unless there is a township assessor. and 5) doling out dog tags. I guess you could make a case that some of these could be consolidated. You would save the average township, I would guess, about $8-10k a year-assuming changing who does the job still has a cost associated with it. I wouldn't do the job if it paid me double what most trustees are paid.

Here's some reasons for protecting the trustee. Rather than seeing the trustee as a "level of bureaucracy" they are, in fact, few of any positions at which "the buck stops". They have to have an answer-there is no one above them-and they are right there, in your community. Bureaucracy usually happens because someone somewhere has to make the decision, but you can't communicate with them-or get to them. Here's another thought-for the most part, that trustee also knows the people of the township. They know who abuses the poor relief system and know who could use it, but are too proud to ask. And they know the farmers who need a little help filing their forms-and can provide it, because they probably have some knowledge of farming.

I'm not sure what would happen with cemetery or fire protection responsibilities-I guess someone somewhere would make those decisions. All told, I like having the piece of mind very little money buys to have someone I can look up in a phone book or see at the grocery store.

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