Prior to the changes proposed in House Bill 153, laws governing the process for merging local governments were too complex and cumbersome; in some cases, mergers were not even allowed.
The toolkit removes existing barriers and streamlines the process to help local governments ready to build stronger, better communities.
The legislation allows two or more neighboring townships to voluntarily join forces. Previously, townships seeking to merge had to give up the township form of government and partner with a village or city. Citizens were often unhappy about having to give up their township identity.
The new process is voluntary and initiated at the local level. Most importantly, township leaders can pick their own partners, including other townships, and have the flexibility to decide what works best for their community. Trustees can place the question of whether to merge on the ballot, or the process can be initiated by the people.
Provisions also were added that streamline the merger process for townships to merge with municipalities and villages or cities to merge into townships.
Fiscal Distress –
Understanding that financial problems are hard to fix the longer they go undetected, the new law creates a “fiscal caution” designation for local governments in fiscal distress to allow for earlier detection and to offer assistance to those entities that need it. Guidelines for making this determination will be developed by the staff in the Auditor’s Local Government Services Section.
The bill also streamlines the process for overseeing governments in “fiscal watch” and “fiscal emergency,” and requires specific actions and timelines to insure local governments are taking the necessary steps toward financial recovery.
Prior to the enactment of these provisions, it was possible for a fiscal crisis to linger with little or no progress and no real consequences for failing to take action.
Financial Oversight & Planning Commissions
In current law, most local governments in fiscal emergency are required to form a financial oversight and planning commission comprised of state and local leaders.
The purpose of the commission is to create a financial recovery plan and implement the necessary steps to return the entity to good fiscal health.
For local governments with populations of less than 1000, however, the Auditor of State will now serve as the sole financial supervisor. Under this new provision, local leaders drive the process by developing their own financial recovery plan, but state auditors will be available to assist the local community on a day-to-day basis.