After studying the Plan of Reorganization between the Town of Zionsville and Perry Township and considering the arguments in favor and opposed (and setting aside the legal impediment correctly imposed by Judge McClure in her decision that the Town is not qualified to reorganize under the pertinent statutes because it is a town and not a township), I recommend voting against the Zionsville/Perry Plan for many reasons, the top three of which are summarized as follows:
First, the primary argument for the Plan is that Zionsville needs a mayor to manage the Town’s operations and employees. This argument ignores two important facts. One, by statute, the Town Council President is the Town executive and can exercise authority over the Town’s operations by virtue of ordinances adopted by the Town Council. Two, Zionsville already has a full-time Town Manager who, by statute, is the administrator and manager of the Town’s operations including hiring and managing Town employees and enforcing Town ordinances. In fact, most of the duties proposed in the Plan to be performed by the mayor are currently performed by the Town Manager.
Second, the Plan provides for the elimination of the elected office of Clerk-Treasurer and provides that the performance of those duties will be by a department head appointed and supervised by the mayor. The Clerk-Treasurer is an important member of town government with many duties including overseeing the Town’s fiscal operations, managing its finances and investments, preparing its budget estimates, and maintaining its records. Currently, this is an elected position and is independent of the Town Council. As such, the Clerk-Treasurer is really the only person with knowledge and independent power to serve as the taxpayers’ watch dog to oversee the Town’s financial operations and transactions. Under the Plan, this position would become an appointed position answerable only to the mayor. This is not in the best interest of taxpayers.
Another important function of the Clerk-Treasurer, often overlooked, is to serve as an ex-officio member of the Town Council for the purpose of casting a deciding vote to break a tie. This function is eliminated by the Plan, resulting in the loss of an elected representative in an important role; again, not in the best interest of taxpayers.
Third, taxes will increase. This is not a personal prediction. This is the conclusion of the Town’s accountants in the Town’s analysis filed with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance comparing before and after reorganization tax rates.
The Town will become responsible for providing services to a much larger geographic area and to more residents (all of Perry Township including those portions in the City of Lebanon and the Town of Whitestown) without receiving enough additional revenue from the Township to offset the additional expenses.
The Plan also adds another layer of government vis-à-vis the additional office of mayor along with all of the necessary expenses attributable to its administration. As President Reagan often cautioned, bigger government is always more expensive but usually neither better nor more efficient.
Bottom line, it’s not necessary (nor legal) to consolidate with Perry Township, raise taxes and eliminate the elected, independent fiscal officer to create an executive officer for Zionsville – by law those duties can already be performed by the Town Council President and Town Manager. I urge you to vote “no” on the question of reorganization.
Debra S. Easterday