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The Journal Gazette

  • Tippmann

Thursday, May 10, 2018 1:00 am

Trustee candidate pushes to end entity

Perry Republican says county can do township services

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

The Allen County Council could have a vacancy to fill early next year if one Republican member wins his bid for Perry Township trustee. 

Freshman County Councilman Eric Tippmann, a chemistry professor at IPFW, won the Republican nomination Tuesday for Perry Township trustee. Receiving 1,782 votes, Tippmann defeated incumbent Trustee James McIntosh II for the Republican nod. He will face Democrat Melissa Rinehart in November. The Perry Township trustee earns $36,500 per year. In 2017, Tippmann made $16,948 as a County Council member. 

Part of Tippmann's platform supports eliminating township government altogether. The system of township government, he said, is antiquated and most, if not all, of the services townships provide can be done through county government. 

“This seems like a fabulous project to modernize government and reduce property taxes,” Tippmann said in an interview Wednesday. “If people knew how upside down some of these townships are, spending $5 to give away $1, they would be furious.” 

Tippmann said he plans to work with state lawmakers to “write the best possible law” to eliminate township governments. 

“No one's going to be harmed by it,” Tippmann said. “These services aren't going to go away. We already do this kind of poor relief in other capacities through other entities.”

Shifting from a County Council member to a township trustee does offer an elected official a greater level of service, said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

Downs also said Tippmann is not the first politician to argue that township government ought to be eliminated. That debate has been waged in various forms for years, Downs said. 

Using the township trustee position as a platform to advocate for its elimination could be effective, Downs said. Trustees are part of the Indiana Association of Townships. 

“When the trustees as a group is polling its members and taking positions, it will have to deal with a member whose position is, 'I don't think we should be here anymore,'” Downs said. 

The argument against eliminating township government centers on the idea of smaller government that is closer to the people, Downs said. Townships, which focus mostly on township assistance for poor residents and public safety, are also some of the most collaborative units of government, he said. 

“If you want to look at local governments that cooperate with each other, the townships do that better than cities or counties, I would argue,” Downs said. “They will provide fire and EMS service in more than one township by partnering up, or they may partner with a local food bank for township assistance.” 

Downs said those against eliminating township government also argue that once township assistance is folded into a city or county, there is red tape involved that impacts how fast the aid is dispersed. 

Those who would prefer repeal of township government argue that cities and counties have access to better technology that would help assistance be dispersed efficiently.

Also, some townships receive tax money, but administer little or no assistance because it's not needed, proponents of eliminating township governments say. 

“If they were doing it on a county or regional scale, that inefficiency would be taken care of by economies of scale,” Downs said. 

dgong@jg.net