By far the largest single group of elected officials in Indiana, Township Trustees govern 1,008 townships covering every part of the state. Like most elected officials, the Township Trustee serves a four year term. Many Township Trustees work at other jobs in addition to serving their constituents.
Assisting the Township Trustee in managing this very localized form of government is a three member Township Board. Among its duties are the adoption of the annual budget, serving as a board of finance, and approving township contracts.
Indiana law requires that the Township Trustees provide essential services to the residents and businesses of the Township. Because of its “grassroots” structure, the Township Trustee system is designed specifically to quickly meet the needs of the individual in an emergency.
Township Trustees are, by Indiana law, charged with the responsibility of providing fire protection and ambulance service for the areas of the township not incorporated into a city or town. The protection can be provided by contracting with various fire departments, operating a Township Fire Department, or a combination of both. (Indiana Code 36-8)
Overseeing the poor and distributing poor relief is a primary duty in many townships. The trustee is charged to care for the poor by the most economical means available and at the same time is charged to be sure that the necessary needs of an individual or family are met. The applicant must show that they are unable to provide those needs through personal effort and that they have exhausted all other means.
Many trustees creatively cooperate with other agencies and churches in their areas, keeping costs controlled and delivering services needed. The advantage the Trustee’s systems has over other forms of welfare is the freedom to discern whether or not an individual has and is willing to put forth that personal effort to help themselves. (Indiana Code Title 12)
Burial assistance is available from the Township Trustee when no other means of payment are available. The trustee, according to Indiana Code Title 12, is to oversee the burial of the indigent.
In townships with a population under 10,000 the trustee is also the township assessor and is responsible for assessing the real and personal property within their township. Since Center Township in Delaware County has a population over 10,000 there is a separate township assessor.
Personal property is assessed yearly and consists of mobile homes and tangible personal property of an individual, business, or farm. Real property is assessed during a reassessment period with new buildings being added yearly.
Each August, the trustee prepares and submits a budget for the incoming year to the three-person township board for approval. As the Chief Financial Officer of the township, the trustee pays and records all claims for the township expenses and salaries and is responsible to keep accurate records and follow all the financial guidelines set out in Indiana Code.
In January of each year, the trustee presents to the board an annual report which shows all receipts, expenditures, investments and debts. The approved report is then published in local papers for public inspection.
According to Indiana Code 23-14 the trustee is to provide and maintain cemeteries located in the township. This includes those cemeteries which have been abandoned.
Indiana Code 15-3-4 charges the trustee with destroying detrimental weeds within their township. Guidelines for notification to the property owner are set within the law.
When a dispute arises between two land owners regarding placement and maintenance of line fences, the trustee is to make determination according to Indiana law 32-10-9.
There are other areas of responsibility for trustees that are not widespread. Those include:
- Parks and Recreation
- Zoning and Planning
- Small Claims Court
- Emergency Medical Service
- Community Centers