The number of Howard County townships would be shrunk from 11 to seven if voters approve a consolidation plan during November’s election.
If the referendum is passed, three northern townships — Clay, Ervin and Howard — would be combined into a single governmental unit. A separate referendum proposes consolidation of the county’s three easternmost townships: Liberty, Jackson and Union.
The stated goal is to achieve greater efficiency and save tax dollars, but Union Township Trustee Stephen Carpenter says he’s felt pressure from the state to prove these smaller governmental bodies can be effective.
“I think at one time they even said if we didn’t do something, they could eliminate township government, have one person in charge of the whole county,” he says.
Carpenter is referring to the Kernan-Shepard report that was released in 2007. The report recommends the state give township functions such as poor relief and fire protection to a single county executive.
Jamie Palmer is a senior policy analyst at IUPUI and was on the team of researchers for the Kernan-Shepard report. She says few townships have consolidated in Indiana, so it’s hard to tell how legislators will respond to the plan in Howard County.
“They’ll like it that some communities decide to do it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that will take away the proposal to eliminate townships,” Palmer says.
Still, she says, it is probably better for the townships to take matters into their own hands than maintain the status quo or wait for a state mandate that makes changes for them.Howard County Township Consolidation Plan