INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana House scarcely approved a bill Tuesday that will abolish 13 township assessor offices around the state – including Wayne Township in Allen County.
More than a dozen legislators spoke for and against House Bill 1027, which passed 53-44 and now moves to the Senate.
The bill overrides voters' wishes from referendums in 2008 and would go into effect in 2023.
Rep. Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, said a study done by state agencies found that county assessors outperform township assessors in terms of quality and cost.
She noted that lawmakers immediately abolished 965 township assessors as part of a major property tax restructuring back in 2008.
But legislators gave voters the right to weigh in on the townships with the largest number of parcels. Forty-three township assessor offices went to the ballot and Hoosiers kept 13 in nine counties while shifting the duties of the 30 others to the county assessor.
Wayne Township is one of the remaining 13. The office has an annual budget of almost $700,000, which covers 12 full-time employees including the assessor. The township is in charge of assessing more than 46,000 parcels of land.
Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, said in 2008 the Legislature told Hoosiers “if you like your township assessor you can keep your township assessor – until now.” The phrase was in reference to an Affordable Care Act promise made by Democrats that Americans could keep their personal doctors.
He said this is a step toward eliminating all township government and centralizing all duties at the county level.
Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, also argued for keeping the townships. He asked what the point of a referendum is if legislators are just going to come back a few years later and override the will of the people.
Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, questioned how long the results of a referendum should last. He said he wasn't in the Legislature in 2008 and “at the end of the day, I believe this is good policy” that will streamline government and save money in overhead expenses.
Here is how northeast Indiana's lawmakers voted on the legislation:
For: Rep. Jim Abbott, R-Rome City; Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven; Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne; Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne; Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington; Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne; Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola.
Against: Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne; GiaQuinta; Nisly; Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn; Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw.