Friday, April 9, 2010

Open Topic #3 How I would save IMCPL from budgetary disaster

As has been learned in the Indianapolis Star, and was expressed by the MysticMynstrel, the library system in town has a severe budget shortfall. (Something to the tune of 7% of total budget). This is a direct result of the property tax caps which were brought about in 2007, because in 2006 people did not care for the amount of property tax they were paying. Candidly, it's primarily Marion County that seems to be paying the burden of property tax for much of the rest of the state, but the white beards capped it temporarily, and now the library does not have enough funds.

This is a terrible situation. This is when one should really instruct the citizens of Indiana why property taxes are important. But all is not lost, there is as the Star indicates a fairly useless portion of government that is currently hoarding a lot of tax dollars (apparently 48 million in Marion county alone), that if gotten rid would release those funds to our publicly owned stuff like libraries, schools, police and fire department. What is this terrible miser, whose very existence causes all this good money to go unspent on behalf of taxpayers? In a word, townships.

What, you ask, is a township. I know, living on the near north side, that I live in Washington Township. But what does a township do? Apparently, Townships back in the 17th century were the way to demarcate areas where people actually live in a town or city. Taxes are funneled into the township to be distributed to things people need. Except apparently, that is no longer the way a township around here functions. It appears that the townships have now become store houses for tax money. That never gets used on anything. In a country which strictly runs public works on tax dollars, that is not simply intolerable, that is flat out unacceptable. Schools, Libraries, soon Police and Fire departments will be screaming for funds, and the township is hoarding money that should be going to these four utilities.

Yes, I view the public library as a utility. It serves the public good, and tax money is supposed to cover it. Therefore a utility.

In other words, despite the property tax caps, if there was no township system, the library would very likely have to take a much smaller and less painful hair cut than the current 7% shaving. I so rarely agree with the local paper, but I think the op-ed writer is correct at this point. The township system needs to go away. That hoarded money needs to be distributed, and libraries need to stay open.

It's so uncool that not only are they apparently closing 6 branches of IMCPL, but they are all branches that service poor communities. This is intolerable. Andrea exhorts us to be change agents, to rise to the occasion. Well here's a good thing to change, kill the townships and reclaim the tax money. I say we do it now.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more on all counts, Ben. I've been supporting dissolution of township governments almost since I arrived, and I'm appalled that those who believe minimal taxes are always a good thing will be up in arms as soon as they realize just how much must be cut, and from where. And they will complain about how they want all the same services, just for much less money. If they care at all about services to underserved communities. After all, they got theirs, right?

  2. I am uncertain that townships are useless in rural areas. Metro areas such as Indianapolis are in an entirely different situation than rural areas in the state. Also county governments and county officials are important in rural areas where an entire county isn't just one city but many small towns and communities. I do feel that everyone wants public services and no one wants to pay for them. Wake up people. You can't have public services without paying taxes. Unless we, go the way the governor would like to and, privatize all public institutions and charge user fees for all services. Cutting and capping taxes seems like such a great idea to the masses. When will they realize that less taxes = cuts in programs and institutions serving them and the rest of the community? You only get what you pay for.

  3. Michael - It's so true, they have 'theirs' so to heck with the rest of us.

    Alisa, I think it's time to re-institute teaching a phrase in K-12. TANSTAFL, or There Aint No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.