GREENFIELD — Red tape at the state level makes it tricky to run local government, a group of Hancock County officials told Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann Friday.
Ellspermann visited Greenfield Friday morning, meeting first with about 20 elected officials before sitting down with a group of business representatives at Elanco. Wrapping up her “listen and learn tour” by visiting the James Whitcomb Riley Home, the first-year lieutenant governor said the concerns raised here are similar to those she’s heard in counties across the state.
“Certainly local government is looking for all the ways it can grow and meet its budget challenges,” Ellspermann said. “We don’t ever want to be the one that seems as being the heavy mandator.”
This is the 34th county Ellspermann has visited since she took office this year. Ultimately, she plans to hold similar meetings in all 92 counties so she can identify trends and generate ideas to improve state government.
Ellspermann, a former state representative, is from Dubois County in southwestern Indiana.
The morning government meeting was an invitation-only event and included county commissioners and council members, along with officials from Greenfield and Cumberland. While it was held in a public place and included a quorum of county commissioners, staff for Ellspermann said the meetings are typically closed to the general public because it gives her a chance to have frank discussions with local officials. A reporter for the Daily Reporter was present at the session.
From traffic issues in Greenfield to concerns with state mandates, officials mentioned problems they’ve been discussing publicly for years.
Some voiced frustration with unrealistic deadlines from the Indiana Department of Local Government finance, for example. Others – like Mayor Dick Pasco – says the Indiana Tax Court still hasn’t made a ruling on the Greenfield Fire Territory tax appeal. It’s been more than a year since the city challenged the decision made by the state to reduce Center Township taxes for fire protection.
Commissioner President Derek Towle said local government is still feeling the pinch from property tax caps, and townships now struggle with raising money for ambulances. There’s also red tape with state-funded infrastructure projects and more.
“It’s almost like we want to have more local control, but the state won’t allow it,” Towle said.
The meeting at Elanco was a roundtable business and agricultural discussion, Ellspermann said, and folks were concerned about attracting more higher education or training here. Even basic work skills are lacking in some areas, she said.
For years, nonprofit and business officials in the county have tried to get an Ivy Tech Community College branch or others to Greenfield, but a lack of public funding has been a stumbling block.
“Your proximity is good to other locations (for higher education), but boy, would it be nice to have it here,” Ellspermann said.
Pasco said the government meeting was encouraging because he hopes state and local government can work more closely together.
“It’s kind of encouraging the state will listen,” Pasco said.