The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Editorials

February 6, 2014

Editorial: Township error another case for consolidation

If you want taxpayers to throw up their hands and say “begone” with a government employee, office or an entire department, then provide voters with proof of financial errors.

Taxpayers can usually forgive lapses in judgment or morality. But accounting problems? It shouldn’t happen with government entities when they have access to all sorts of handbooks, associations, and accountants that can help in balancing the books.

A state audit of Anderson Township Trustee’s Office recently showed that there were enough discrepancies in bookkeeping to yield a $4,125 payment to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS had also placed a hold on the township’s bank account.

The audit covered the period from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012.

During that time, the trustee’s office hired an accounting firm which, on a monthly basis, received financial information from the trustee. Neither accounted for financial activity in the same manner, the report said.

As an example, the trustee records indicated a budget balance of $31,591 for 2012 while the accounting firm cited $33,740. The difference of about $2,149 may not seem much until the penalty amounts to almost twice that.

This all comes at a time when many Hoosiers have pushed for the elimination of township government, an outdated system that worked fine more than 100 years ago ago before cars or computers were so prevalent. Townships can be absorbed into county government. In some cases, the consolidation would prevent overlapping tax districts where residents pay taxes to numerous entities. In other cases, consolidation could eliminate tiny bookkeeping headaches that penalize taxpayers.

Township services, including welfare relief and cemetery maintenance, would be rolled into county duties.

The argument against consolidation has often been that it would require just as many workers to provide services — they would just be under one umbrella instead of hundreds of individual townships.

Now, hearing of a bookkeeping error in just one Indiana township should reignite a local discussion about consolidating townships. Even for one township to have problems with bookkeeping may be enough for all of us to review this outdated form of government.

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