Lawmakers propose law to give disgruntled Griffith a way out of Calumet Township
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent January 19, 2013 5:42PM
Updated: January 19, 2013 10:26PM
GRIFFITH — A House bill introduced last week may be the ticket to get the town out of Calumet Township, though the process would be long and involved.
House Bill 1585, introduced by newly elected State Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, and co-sponsored by Reps. Mara Candelaria-Reardon, D-Munster, and Gerald “Jerry” Torr, R-Carmel, seeks to allow a municipality to attach itself to an adjacent township if its current property tax rate is at least 15 times the state’s average township assistance rate, Griffith Town Council Vice President Rick Ryfa said.
If the bill passes, it would go into effect July 1.
And Ryfa thinks it has a good chance of getting on the floor this time around.
“We feel very good about it coming to the House and going over to the Senate,” Ryfa said. “Right now, we’re waiting for a committee assignment, which has to be done by Jan. 24, so our first victory would be a good committee assignment, such as House Ways and Means.”
But transferring to another township won’t be as simple as a declaration of intent. First, 30 percent of the voters in a municipality who voted in the last Secretary of State election must sign petitions in favor of getting out its township. Once the signatures have been procured, the municipality’s governing body must vote to have a referendum, either by special election or at the next available election.
The referendum would then need to pass with a two-thirds majority.
Assuming the billl becomes law, the town would have one year to petition adjacent townships — in Griffith’s case, that would be St. John, North or Ross township — and have its petition accepted. Should none of the adjacent townships want to avail themselves to Griffith, the town could then opt to administer township services itself.
“The best choice would be to join another township,” Ryfa said. “But we could do ourselves as well.”
Ryfa, who along with other town officials has been working with lobbyists to craft the legislation, said they were careful to craft a bill that’s good for the town, fair to the rest of the state and something acceptable to the Indiana Township Association.
“We are not attempting wholesale reform or elimination of townships. We simply are offering an equitable solution derived from input we received from around the state that will protect citizens and other forms of government from only the most abusive townships,” he said.
If the legislation passes as written, Griffith property owners would be the first in line to see a reduction on their pre-circuit-breaker property tax bills.
The Calumet Township poor relief rate Griffith residents pay is at least 30 times the state average, Ryfa said, so the result would be lower bills for Griffith property owners and increased revenue for all other governmental units.
“It is a win for Griffith and the rest of the county, and it is a win for good government,” he said.