The following question will appear on Center Township ballots on Election Day:
"Should the assessing duties of the elected township assessor in the township be transferred to the county assessor?"
Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal, as well as MySmartgov.org, are urging voters to vote "yes" on the referendum. The two organizations also oppose tactics like "Vote No" signs and T-shirts in the township's office.
The 2008 Indiana General Assembly abolished township assessors in 965 townships but left it to voters in the 43 most populous townships to decide if they wanted to do the same.
Dieter's organization, which has four full-time employees, expects the Legislature next year to take up even more ways to streamline local government, including eliminating all of the township trustees.
I think streamlining the township duties into county or city entities makes sense in some counties. Those counties being our more urban counties. That said, I think the assessors have a point because they do have specialized training.
Their argument is that abolishing the Center Township assessor's office will result in the loss of services and jobs without saving any money.
"With the budget cuts most of our offices have undergone, there's no way in hell to make us any more efficient," said Becky Williams, president of the Indiana Assessors Association. "A good part of our assessors are experienced. These are not political hacks filling most of these jobs."
Evans has 28 years of experience. Her budget for 2009 is $343,286. Her office assesses about 27,000 residential properties (the commercial and industrial assessments are hired out).
"We do more than assessments," Evans said. "We do deeds, business personal property, disclosures (of the sale price of properties). Businesses with filing cabinets, computers, cash registers, restaurant equipment, tanning beds and other personal property are taxable. I have a deputy that does mobile homes. We go out on building permits, demolitions and remodeling. We do data entry. We do (property) transfers. We assist with the commercial assessments. We do appeals. We measure property, wait on the counters and answer the phones.
"And we are your first step for an answer in local government. One way or another, the money is still going to have to be spent to get our job done."
Which brings up the other point that causes me doubts: how do we know how much money we are saving in what appears to be efficiency?