Whenever budget time comes around, it seems my office ends up on television and in the newspapers. This happened again recently when we published a legal notice of a loan request.
Government budgeting is complicated and different from your personnel budget in that governments have numerous statutes we must follow. While all government entities essentially follow the same budget process, the Trustee’s Office has some unique characteristics I would like to explore with you.
All property tax supported government entities in Wayne Township receive a certain portion of your property tax dollars. This means that Wayne Township draws its money from the same source as other governmental entities, such as schools, City of Fort Wayne, Allen County, library and several others.
It is easier to understand when you think of a pie. Each governmental entity gets a slice of the pie. In Wayne Township’s case, we onlya get about 2.5 percent of that pie, just a very small sliver. Put another way, Wayne Township only receives about two and one-half pennies out of every property tax dollar.
Further, Wayne Township is entirely supported by taxes. We do not have the option of raising additional cash by, for example, charging higher rates for garbage collection or higher library fines. Our only option when we need additional money is seeking a loan.
Wayne Township is in the position of being caught, as the saying goes, “between a rock and hard place.” On the one hand, we are mandated by law to provide assistance to those in need. Yet, the tax money we receive as part of our slice of the pie is not enough to fully fund the assistance requests.
The reasons for this predicament are as complicated as the budgeting process. They involve the obvious, which is a big increase in requests for assistance due to the declining economy. And, they also involve Wayne Township’s artificially low tax levy.
I have written in my column before about the various cost cutting measures I have undertaken to reduce the costs for the Township. While Indiana law places many requirements on Townships, it allows Trustees some leeway in setting their own standards for granting assistance.
One of the most important things my staff and I have done this year is to change Wayne Township Eligibility Standards in a way that will reduce our costs while still providing the best service we can for clients. I am painfully aware that our updated Eligibility Standards will result in some clients receiving fewer benefits.
My staff and I have taken every step we can to help and prepare clients affected by the changes. But, the harsh reality is that less tax money translates into reduced services.
I take extremely seriously my responsibility as Trustee to be the best possible guardian of taxpayers’ money and also provide the best possible services for our community. I also take extremely seriously my responsibility to be open and to provide information to the community about my office.
Township Board meetings are open to the public. I attend many community events and am always willing to discuss with you the issues facing my office. Please feel free to approach me and let me know your thoughts about Township government, which remains the closest government to the people.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee