EDITORIAL: Review entire structure of county government

2013-04-03T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Review entire structure of county government nwitimes.com
April 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Indiana General Assembly appears to be planning to take another look at the structure of county government this summer. It's a good idea.

Senate Bill 475 was rewritten in the House of Representatives last week to require a legislative study committee look at whether counties should have a single executive instead of the current three county commissioners. The Senate next needs to sign off on this major change to the legislation.

SB 475, as written, would have spelled out the terms for this change. The study committee's scope could be broadened to include other changes at the county level as well.

Over the years, there have been many studies recommending changes in the structure of county government.

The most recent landmark study was by the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform, which issued the Kernan-Shepard report in December 2007.

That wonky report didn't light a fire under taxpayers, but it should. The bipartisan commission recommended a number of changes that have become law, fortunately, but there is still unfinished business. 

Simply put, county government should be structured more like municipal government.

Having three county executives is akin to having three mayors. It's not an efficient way to run county government. Instead of having clear accountability, allegiances -- sometimes shifting -- among the three commissioners must be taken into account.

The study committee should also look at county government's finance operations. A single comptroller, accountable to the county executive, would be more efficient than electing a treasurer, recorder, assessor and auditor.

In Porter County, those officials have worked well together in recent years. That isn't always the case, though. Electing those department heads makes it more difficult to force them to work together.

The study committee should look at the whole structure of county government. Examine the whole patient, not just its head.

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