MONEY MONEY (where did it all go?)
|Bolin at work Wednesday Night|
For years, Martinsville City officials and the general public have been unable to understand how and why the Washington Township Government has been so flush with cash, pay, and benefits, and the city has been so cash strapped. During the Wednesday, April 10, Washington Township meeting, answers to some of those questions may have been finally answered. After spending a considerable amount of his personal time over the past two years doing research and following the money trail, Bob Bolin presented eye-opening findings to the public Wednesday evening. Bolin showed the budget process and money trail, which hinted that the township may have been using and spending money that should have been applied elsewhere. At this point, Bob had the full attention of the audience.
As previously reported in the Martinsville Report, township spending for fire protection is high. It is the highest in the county. In the article, HIGH COSTS AND IDLE TIME and this article, FIREMAN FINANCIAL RESULTS ARE IN, the spending is detailed. The Washington Township board is (supposed to be) the final controlling legal authority for all money spent in the township. However, past boards have seemingly delegated the budgeting and financial controls to those who spend the money.
THE CONFUSING PROCESS
At the meeting Wednesday night Bolin produced a process flowchart showing how state money should be/is distributed to the county and then re-distributed to the townships.
He also showed how the legislature intended that money, in part, to be used equitably and fairly to reduce local property taxes and support local government.
THE DETAIL as presented by Bolin
|#2 Property Tax Relief Credit and CAGIT math|
|#3 The MONEY|
The township is comprised of both township outside the city and township inside the city. A long long time ago, CAGIT was SPLIT and spent proportionately, based on assessed values, between general township outside the city, and township within the city. Somewhere along the line, that changed. No one recalls when that change took place. However, the lawmakers made a huge mistake and left a loophole big enough to drive a Washington township firetruck through it by giving township boards the option of where to allocate the money.
The result of this, at least in Washington Township, was that the Washington Fire Department snatched all $1.1 Million over the last 5 years and spent every penny. None of the $720K of certified share money was distributed back to city related township business, poor relief, or property tax relief.
City taxpayers essence have paid twice for fire services. They paid first for city fire protection and secondly, by not getting the certified shares money they were due, also paid for the township fire services that they will never use. City residents then probably had to be taxed even more by the city to make up for the certified shares not received. Township taxpayers not in the city also had to be taxed more to make up for the certified shares that were not credited to general township expenses. Every taxpayer in the township loses, except the fire department employees.
The legislature knows about this loophole. Once it closes, what will happen? The first thing that will happen is that the township fire protection will no longer be subsidized by the taxpayers in the city. Next, city taxpayer may see both their township property tax rates and poor relief tax decreased.
Township taxpayers not in the city need to make a decision. What kind of fire protection do they want? Do they want their property taxes to increase or stay the same? After this years re-assessment, no one wants more taxes. If the taxpayers want to continue to fund the highest cost fire station in the unincorporated portion of Washington Township, taxes will need to rise to keep fire protection employees living in the manner to which they are accustomed. If not, change is on the way at the township fire station.
From a financial perspective, the Washington Township fire department could survive in its entirety without tax increases if the cost structure is re-aligned on par with the Martinsville fire department. Many townships across Indiana have reformulated their fire stations and gone with part time firemen, volunteers, market wages, and a mix of full time firemen in order to keep their cost and tax structure reasonable and competitive.
During the meeting, Lonnie Kern, the highest paid fireman of all, who was paid over $70K last year, stood up and said, "I just wanna reiterate, what is being done is perfectly legal, if we're gonna change the system, we need a plan to replace the funding in advance".
Your property taxes will either increase if Washington Township officials continue their current course (business as usual) of action or.........................................................your taxes will stay the same when and if the Washington Township board exhibits the foresight, leadership, and courage required to properly manage their own cost structure.....and your property tax bill.
I told you it was complicated.