Costs of Yorktown consolidation grows
By Rick Yencer
YORKTOWN, IN - The cost of that new consolidated government in Yorktown continues to go up despite supporters who insisted eliminating township government would actually save money.
And one member of Yorktown Town Council Steve Fields who supported the consolidation of the town and township apologized Monday, calling it a "power grab and money grab'' by other council members, specifically council President Bob Ratchford.
"That is enough," said Ratchford, as Fields commanded Monday's meeting, pointing out how present town government was not working and was being run single handedly by Ratchford with help from Town Manager Pete Olson and Clerk-Treasurer Beth Neff.
Fields pointed out how he had been left out of committees and decision making over finances, consolidation and buildings. And when Ratchford talked about how "we" are doing this or that, Fields corrected him by calling out how Ratchford was taking unilateral action on appointing committees and watching over town finances.
Council member Laura Vise defended Ratchford, saying he kept in touch with her and other council members, despite Fields saying he was left out of the loop.
"We have all been involved," said Vise, saying Ratchford was taking the lead.
Fields, a former township trustee, pointed out how the council still had not made spending cuts recommended by the state local government finance agency that oversees local budget taxation and spending. And he added that property taxes went up by 6 cents this spring, not including that 600 percent tacked onto storm water assessments for Muncie Sanitary District customers in the town.
Much of the disagreement came after council agreed to introduce measures raising the town's cumulative fire fund and its cumulative capital development fund to their maximum levies.Final action could come this summer.
The fire fund would go to 3.3 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation while the cumulative fund would go to 5 cents. Both funds amount to less than 2 cents per hundred which would represent more than twice the present rate.
Clerk-Treasurer Beth Neff said the state recommenced raising capital funds to offset loss of property taxes revenue from tax caps on homes, farms and businesses. And she offered rates at or near the maximum amount of taxes allowed.
Town Manager Pete Olson also insisted that the town was not raising taxes despite the obvious hikes in capital funds and how the town's property tax rate just went up by six cents for every $100 of assessed value.
Fields said the fire capital fund had a healthy balance of $500,000 and he did not believe it needed to be raised, although Neff said there was plenty of unknowns with upcoming consolidation and the expense of fire protection. And Neff repeated that local government finance officials recommended the town raise taxes although the agency only advises local government on funding options and approves local budgets.
On Jan. 1, the council will grow from five to seven members and the township fire department will become a department of the town along with public assistance handled through the town.
And those savings with abolishing township government could be offset by capital funds going up in 2013, besides a general property tax increase in the next budget.