EDITORIAL: Griffith legislation is a good start

2013-04-23T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Griffith legislation is a good start nwitimes.com
April 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The legislation that enables Griffith to exit Calumet Township is acceptable, but realize that this is a Band-Aid and not a permanent solution.

House Bill 1585 will become law if Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs it. Under the terms of that bill, Griffith is allowed to leave Calumet Township if the township's spending isn't brought under control by 2014.

Calumet Township's township assistance tax rate, used to fund poor relief, is 22.64 times the state average -- nearly three times that of the next highest township tax rate. The legislation forces Calumet Township to reduce its rate to no more than 12 times the state average in the next year or risk losing Griffith.

If the township's rate doesn't shrink, the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board could appoint an emergency manager to run the township. In 2015, if the rate is still too high, Griffith would be allowed to have a referendum to join a different township.

This is good news for Griffith, which has battled for years to escape from the costly township tax burden. Township Trustee Mary Elgin has been cutting spending, but there's a long way to go.

The twin threats of possible state takeover and of Griffith being allowed an exit strategy will, we hope, force Calumet Township to bring its spending in line with others.

But this legislation fails to address the larger problem, of which Griffith's complaint is a symptom.

Indiana still needs to determine how best to fund and operate poor relief so the burden of helping the poor isn't concentrated in impoverished areas.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the House, it's Calumet Township today, but it could be you tomorrow," state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, told the House last week.

The potential elimination of township government has been cussed and discussed countless times over the years. Nothing will come of that, however, without first settling on an equitable way to raise funds for and distribute emergency poor relief.

In Calumet Township, and in some others, the overhead costs for administering this aid are staggering. There has to be a better way, one that cuts administrative costs and improves service.

We appreciate the relief HB 1585 offers Griffith, but a permanent solution for the entire state would be even better.

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