Yesterday’s Evansville Courier & Press carries an interesting feature on city-county consolidation discussions that would merge Evansville – Indiana’s third-largest city – with Vanderburgh County – the state’s seventh most-populous county – in a ‘UniGov’-esque system. A 12-member Evansville-Vanderburgh County Reorganization Committee was formed as a result of a petition drive led by the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana.
The article acknowledges the political difficulties inherent in consolidation (this will be the fourth attempt since the mid-1970s to initiate local government merger in Evansville-Vanderburgh County), but emphasizes the potential payoffs in economic development and budgetary savings.
Such discussions are becoming more and more common around the state as communities grapple with the aftershocks of the economic recession coupled with the implementation of property tax caps limiting local revenues. It’s become obvious to all but the most entrenched defenders of the status quo that local government reforms – like consolidation – are the only alternative to continued rounds of drastic budget cuts or local option tax increases.
Though the Evansville story doesn’t mention it, township government continues to be a prime target for reform efforts – the more than 1,000 townships across Indiana have overtaxed their way to hundreds of millions of dollars in unused surpluses as the fiscal crunch continues to plague city and county governments, while performing services that could be absorbed in county offices with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Unfortunately, local government reform proposals based on the Kernan-Shepard Commission report have continued to stall before Indiana General Assembly (as chronicled ad nauseum on this blog), victim of political posturing and the furious lobbying of local officeholders defending their own fiefdoms. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and our partners in the MySmartGov coalition remain committed to the cause of reform, and are prepared to push for progress again during the 2010 legislative session.