In theory, the idea of requiring the Allen County Council to review the budgets of all governmental entities in the county with taxing power is sound.
In practice, its an ineffective waste of time.
Various government agencies set property tax rates without considering the cumulative effect of the other agencies. For example, depending on the address, a Fort Wayne homeowner may pay property taxes for city government, county government, Wayne Township, the Citilink bus service, the airport, the library and Fort Wayne Community Schools.
And under Indianas arcane law on property tax caps, a tax increase by one unit of government can reduce the amount of money going to all the other units.
Having one group of elected officials review all the budgets sounds good, and the County Council is the group of elected fiscal officials that represents the entire county. But as Dan Stockmans story Thursday explained, its a useless exercise.
For one, the council can only make recommendations to other elected and appointed officials.
And the budgets the council examines are only guesstimates. Most government councils have yet to adopt budgets. Plus, the true tax rates will not be known for weeks, after state bureaucrats match them with assessed property values.
Even if the state legislature gave the county councils true power to act on adopted budgets, that would cause its own set of problems, with some councils giving the county budget top priority and creating infinite new political battles and payback.
The General Assembly had good intentions in requiring county councils to conduct the budget reviews, but they are practically meaningless. The legislature should drop the reviews and give the councils more time to review their own county budgets.