Government Consolidation Will Work… But We’ll All Pay More For It

by Curt Kovener curt-line.jpg

Despite a stinking economy, a hostage holding stock market, unemployment

idling nearly 1 in every 10 Hoosiers, and the majority of the population

scared about their future but trying to put on a brave face, it seems all

some elected leaders and their hired guns want to talk about is how much

government consolidation will be the state’s savior.

The Governor touts the findings of his appointed Kernan-Shepard Committee on

how to improve Hoosier government. Kernan-Shepard was a flawed committee

providing a jaundiced view of Hoosier life. Not a single member of

Kernan-Shepard had any experience is town, county or township government.

They were mayors, former state legislative officials and representatives of

big business. Every member of Kernan-Shepard resides in an urban big city.

So I ask: What the hell do any of them know about life as we live it out

here in the country? Visiting their weekend cabin in Brown County or on Lake

Wawasee doesn’t qualify them to speak on living life out here in the sticks.

You see in the big cities, they are used to mass transit so that folks

living on the edges of the city who are in need of services can board a bus

and be dropped off where ever they need to go. Alas, no buses serve the

residents of Jackson, Scott or Washington Counties.

And the government consolidation pundits claim that much of the government

services business can now be handled on-line. But unlike the metropolitan

areas where residents can have a choice of high speed internet (a necessity

to do business with government on-line) only portions of rural Indiana have

the needed high speed internet connection. Some folks living less than 3

miles from Crothersville and Austin are unable to get DSL and are still

forced to use dial-up service, if that can be called technology by today’s

standards. If you live in the bucolic hills of Jackson or Washington County

you can forget about wireless broadband because of the terrain or lack of

cellphone signal.

And the big city proponents (they really get bent out of shape when they are

called that because they know it’s true and have no response other than to

call us “backward”, “status quo” and “resistant to change”) would have us

believe that someone in the county seat knows better how to provide fire

protection than on the local level.

A county wide fire protection service would be required to provide equal

funding & services. Jackson, Washington and Redding Townships in Jackson

County currently have their fire protection provided by residents paying

dues to their respective departments. The more “efficient” county-wide fire

protection method would mean a property tax increase in those three

townships…even though lower property taxes is the main motivation behind

government consolidation.

The needs of Crothersville and Vernon Township along the much traveled I-65

corridor are vastly different than the western county where hilly, curvy

roads would prevent some large fire apparatus used in the eastern part of

the county from navigating to a fire scene or medical emergency.

And remember that all county residents will not pay equally into the fire

protection system. The City of Seymour—where about half of the entire

county’s assessed wealth is located—those residents, businesses and

industries would not pay anything to fund county fire protection because the

city has their own paid fire department.

Do you think that a county seat bureaucrat using only the currently

available dollars will have your best interests at heart and be able to

improve funding for all rural fire departments?

Should fire protection be determined by the county will some current fire

stations be closed (a synonym for consolidation) for financial reasons? And

should that happen, while we may save some in tax dollars, some will be

greeted with increased insurance premiums for rural home and farm coverage

since proximity to a fire department is a factor in the insurance premium

equation.

I travel to the courthouses of Jackson and Scott County each week to gather

the news. Should the consolidation effort succeed, I am not sure where the

respective counties will place the needed offices to deal with residents’

concerns. Wouldn’t it be “penny wise & pound foolish” if to save money by a

consolidating government, that more government offices must be built, leased

or purchased?

Recently the Indianapolis Star reported on the amount of surplus dollars

township government had squirreled away. What wasn’t included in the report

is the amount of money being saved in cumulative (that means save it until

you need to make a purchase) fire equipment accounts. It is much more

damning if you can report how government taxes its residents while having

piles of money in reserve.

Besides, here in the country aren’t we raised to save for a rainy day? Or

would they want you to believe it is better to get a loan from the bank for

operating funds and then pay the bank interest using tax dollars?

And speaking of the Indianapolis Star, if all of Indiana is to operate the

same, do you really believe that the state’s largest newspaper and the

Crothersville Times have the same business model? There are differences; one

size does not fit all. If the state’s leader doesn’t believe that I will be

happy for our 5-foot-something governor to exchange suit coats with me for

the day.

The government model the big city folks have developed may work quite well

for urban, metropolitan areas. I don’t live there & don’t have much inkling

of their needs and issues so it would be improper for me to offer

suggestions. That is diametrically opposed to the urban based government

consolidation proponents who haven’t done their homework for what works in

non-urban areas.

It seems the big city advocates just want to force it down our throats and

tell us it’s good for us.