Operating a Low Cost Town
There are a number of ways to lower the cost of running a town. First, you give up the old model that the town has to create a department to provide every service; a town police department, street department, and require everyone to use one trash collection service, for example. Second, you keep the number of full time employees to a minimum. Third, you take advantage of any funds that are available from the state, the latest estimates show the town of Center Grove would collect $2.8 million in taxes we are already paying. Our money that is going to counties, towns and cities all around Indiana. Let us look at how this can work.
How do we minimize change? We adopt the current county ordinances on everything that would apply to the town. The impact to the citizens would be limited. We cannot simply “adopt” the Johnson County ordinances wholesale. However, there are firms that will re-write county ordinances so they meet the state requirements for town ordinances. This provides a low cost starting point and does not require anyone to move fences or move a home-based business to another location. It does move control from the entire county to residents of our community.
Another way to minimize change is to use our current service providers. We have talked with both the Johnson County Sheriff and with the Johnson County Highway department. Both are willing to contract with the town of Center Grove to continue to provide services. This means the town has no capital investment in police cars, or other equipment needed by law enforcement. We also do not have to purchase large machinery for road repair or trucks for removing snow and spreading ice melt. Sure, we will have to pay for these services, but the total cost will be much lower than if we set up our own police and highway departments. And the level of services will be detailed in a contract between the town and those providing us the service. The county won’t determine when and what streets are repaired, your town council will.
This does not mean that all the services will remain with the county. For example, we may find that it is more cost effective to high independent contractors to remove snow from some subdivisions. Perhaps we do the same thing for mowing ditches or other services where it is cheaper to use someone other than the county. In addition, this provides jobs for people and businesses within Center Grove. We save money and we create jobs, a real win/win situation.
Keeping the number of full time employees to a minimum is the second key to low cost government. State law requires a clerk/treasurer and a part-time town council. We would also hire a full-time town manager. Local firms could manage other functions, such as computers and phone systems. Fewer employees and more contract services give us lower cost and the ability to use the power of competition to obtain the level of service we require at a lower cost than if we created departments to handle each service.
Finally, Center Grove would take advantage of any taxes revenues that are available from the state. We already pay these taxes, but because we are not incorporated, they flow to towns, cities and counties around Indiana. Those that do flow to Johnson are not required to be spent in the unincorporated area of Center Grove. Here are just a few of the taxes you or others pay that don’t receive and/or don’t have control of:
- Auto & Excise Tax
- Johnson County Income Tax – 1% of your income goes to the county (CAGIT)
- Commercial Vehicle Excise Tax (CVET)
- Gasoline Taxes
- Local Road & Street Fund (LRS)
- Motor Vehicle Highway (MVH)
- Riverboat Revenue Sharing
- Alcohol & Cigarette Taxes
For a complete list of the taxes and an analysis of the revenue that would come to the town, review here the report compiled by municipal financial consulting firm Umbaugh and Associates. Umbuagh provides these services for many communities, including Greenwood.
We are not the first town to follow this low cost model. One of the first was Sandy Springs Georgia. Sandy Springs was an unincorporated area north of Atlanta that was controlled by the county. Very much like the Center Grove area. This video, produced by Reason.TV tells the story of Sandy Springs. Center Grove would follow a similar plan to keep costs low.