LAWRENCE COUNTY - JULY 11, 2023 - The Bono Township Trustee Michelle Porter has passed the State Audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
Porter is on her third term as Bono Township Trustee who started in 2011. She was also township trustee from 1990 -1994.
Photo: Bono Township Trustee Michelle Porter is sworn in by Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Nathan Nikirk
The Bono Township and Guthrie Township is one of the county's smallest townships and was the target of being abolished by state legislatures just a few years ago.
On July 7, 2023 the Indiana State Board of Accounts released its findings that the small township is compliant with the taxpayers money and doing what it is suppose to do.
" I have the best township advisory board, We try our best to utilize taxpayer dollars in the best interests for the township. I try very hard to follow all the rules and laws. I'm thankful for a positive audit," said Michelle Porter following the release of the audit findings.
Porter has always felt the it is still important to keep township government, even though the vast majority of people feel it is antiquated.
Township government trustees main functions include poor relief, fire protection, and cemetery care.
" I know my township residents and I know their needs. I know my people, who live out in my township, I do not make them come to my office, I go to them," said Porter.
" By going out to their homes, allows me to get familiar with their needs. Although, some township does, have set hours, and limit when they can access the office. I consider my job, 365 days a year, 24 hour a day job. When a person had their water shut off in the middle of the night, I worked and had their water turned back on the next morning. There was a small child involved, and I wanted to make sure that child was not in that situation," as Porter detailed some of the things her office does.
" In another situations, if there was a fire, I could get articles of clothing that some organizations could not cover due to rules or regulations and I was able to provide that for them," added Porter.
"The talks of consolidation of township trustees would work just about as well as it did when schools consolidated. Township trustees work with less pay, no benefits, and at less cost, if county government would have taken over township services,"
Bono Township was one of 300 townships the state tried to eliminate back in 2018. In 2019, under House Bill 1650 wanted to abolish advisory boards with no oversight by an advisory board.
" Township government is grass roots at is best," said Porter.
The Kernan-Shephard Report wanted the township government to be abolished. Back in July 2007, Governor Mitch Daniels named former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan and Supreme Court Justice Randall Shephard to co-chair a commission on local government reorganization.
The Kernan -Shephard report ultimately called for the townships to dissolve.
The report issued in December 2007, and titled "Streamlining Local Government" the commission recommended 27 changes, ranging from child welfare funding to reorganization of school districts. Other than assessor changes, no significant consolidation or reorganization reforms resulted from the report.
The current duties of township government, the report suggested would be re-assigned to the county executive in part to eliminate township trustees.
" Townships often are too small, in terms of land area and population, to provide cost-effective public services. The problem becomes pronounced with increasing administrative, staffing training and equipment requirements, particularly fire protection,"
The report continued, " We believe that Indiana counties are large enough to allow economies of scale services but not so large that they preclude sufficient access and responsiveness for citizens.
The commission recommended that a county executive set up districts for fire protection and that a county wide levy for poor relief established.
Fire protection and poor relief remain in control of township trustees in incorporated areas of the state.
" The issues with the Kernan - Shephard report is only large municipalities were included. Representatives from small local government were not included in meetings around the state," said Debbie Driskell of Indiana Township Association. " It was not a study, we hired Indiana University to look closely at the report and make recommendations, after looking at the report it was not a scientific study," added Driskell who commented at a meeting back in 2019 at a township meeting at the First Baptist Church in Bedford.
The recent audit highlights that small township government can be sufficient and do what is required of them.
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