INDIANAPOLIS - After traveling to 27 counties for roundtable discussions with local elected officials, Lt. Governor Skillman today released a report containing local government recommendations that could be addressed as early as this year.
The report touches on items from fiscal flexibility, to professionalism standards, to joint purchasing expansion.
"These ideas come straight from local elected leaders, who witness firsthand all the benefits and consequences of state government and legislative action," Lt. Governor Skillman said. "As a former county official and legislator, I know collaboration can lead to giant leaps forward in the way we provide services to Hoosiers."
In July, Lt. Governor Skillman embarked on her "Hoosier Crossroads Tour", which will eventually take her to all 92 counties by the end of 2012. Thus far, she has met face-to-face with nearly 200 mayors, county commissioners and local elected officials, seeking their advice on how the state and locals can better work together.
Not surprisingly due to the recession, the most common challenge reported by local governments was lack of sufficient revenue.
While Skillman insisted the property tax caps that have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars must stay in place, she is advocating fiscal flexibility at the local level.
Flexibility measures include allowing transfers of surplus revenue to maintain roads and streets, a change in the 911 funding mechanism, broadening the options for legal advertising, and a referendum process for local units of government that need more operating revenue, similar to existing processes for schools. More joint purchasing options and pre-approved infrastructure plans from the state could also save local taxpayers millions of dollars.
Lt. Governor Skillman also strongly supports adoption of anti-nepotism and conflict of interest statutes for local elected officials, additional streamlining of township government, and a standard of excellence certification for local officials and units of government that meet model state standards.
"Today, it's a necessity for every official to seek ways to streamline government and improve services," Lt. Governor Skillman said. "By working in partnership, we can create more efficiency and continue to move our communities forward."
Proposed Legislative Changes Allow a Referendum for Cities, Towns, and Counties -
Give local units of government the same ability that schools have to seek a referendum for additional operating expenses.
Infrastructure Funding - Allow cities, towns, and counties the freedom to transfer reserves to funding for local roads and streets. This would allow local governments at the end of the Fiscal Year to move surplus money from the Rainy Day Fund, cumulative funds, or the General Fund to funding dedicated to roads and streets.
911 Funding - The General Assembly needs to find a revenue solution for the administration of 911 services. As land line telephones become less common, a new funding mechanism needs to be adopted.
Professionalism - General Assembly should adopt anti-nepotism and conflict of interest statutes for local elected officials.
Township Government - Allow two options to streamline township government.
1. Eliminate Township Advisory Boards outright and move fiscal authority to the county, and/or
2. Align townships with the three existing county commissioner districts. Townships would elect one administration for all townships contained in the district.
Legal Advertising - Broaden the options for required legal advertising for local governments to include online and other outlets. Proposed Administrative Changes for State and Local Government Joint Purchasing.
1. Encourage local governments to adopt centralized purchasing within their unit and explore joint purchasing with other units of local government.
2. Encourage state government to allow local units of government to joint purchase fuel, IT equipment, and other items with the State.
Pre-Approved Infrastructure Plans - State government should develop pre-approved model plans for local infrastructure projects such as streets, sidewalks, and water infrastructure. Shovel-ready design standards will save local units millions in consulting and planning fees that often make projects cost-prohibitive.
Professionalism - State government should develop a standard of excellence for city, town, and county officials who meet professional and fiscal model standards adopted by OMB, DLGF, and SBA. State government agencies should also utilize technology during training so local officials can learn remotely without the burden and cost of travel.
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