The Parke County Non-Partisan Committee on Political Education is focused on educating voters of Parke County. The following topics have been presented at past meetings:
- January 26, 2008 - Introduction to County Government
- February 9, 2008 - Parke County Comprehensive Plan
- March 8, 2008 - Financial Health of Parke County
- March 22, 2008 - Parke County Spring 2008 Primary
- April 12, 2008 - Parke County County Council Candidates
- April 26, 2008 - Parke County School Board Candidates
- May 10, 2008 - Parke County Highway Department
- June 28, 2008 - Parke County Property Taxes
- July 26, 2008 - Parke County Sheriff
- September 27, 2008 - Parke County Health Department Inspector
- November 22, 2008 - Raccoon Lake and State Park
- January 24, 2009 - Parke County & Indiana State Health Departments
The January 26th Program was presented by Mark Spelbring. The title of the program was "Introduction to County Government". (Link to Meeting Notice). Mark passed out the following quiz and then led the attendees in a discussion of the answers.
1. Parke County and most Indiana counties have _____ County Commissioners and _____ County Council Members. 2. To run for county auditor, you must be a CPA. T F 3. If a county office holder (except judge or prosecutor) leaves office early, a special election is held and the citizens vote on a replacement. T F 4. If a man is elected county sheriff, his wife is elected jail matron automatically. T F 5. The best way to get something approved by the County Commissioners is to have them all meet you for lunch and decide the issue privately. T F 6. As a citizen, you are entitled to speak at all public meetings held by the County Commissioners and County Council. T F 7. Is the state of Indiana a union of individual counties or are the counties actually sub units of the state?__________________________________ 8. Taxes collected in the Courthouse are only used for county government. T F 9. Which political party holds more county elected offices now? ________________ 10. In county government, the 3 branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial, are clearly defined and easy to understand. T F 11. Appointments to county boards and commissions are made without consideration of the political party to which the appointed person belongs. T F 12. All county elected officials are only allowed to serve 2 terms in office. T F 13. County highway construction and repairs are funded through property taxes. T F 14. The state will support part of the salary of a county highway engineer. T F 15. All open employee positions in county government offices must be advertised in local newspapers. T F
Mark them down before going on to the answers, and see how you did. Now let’s check your answers. Many questions have a concept or rule behind them that was noted.
1. Three (3) Commissioners and seven (7) Council members. Commissioners must live in districts but are voted on countywide. Four Council members must live in districts and are voted on only by people in their district, while three members are elected at large, countywide. 2. False. Most offices have no preset qualifications, so the voters decide. Exceptions include certification now required for assessors, while judges and prosecutors must be attorneys. 3. False. The party to whom the person belonged holds a caucus and precinct chairs elect a person to finish the term. Judge and prosecutor replacements are appointed by the Governor. 4. False. Tradition was that the sheriff was a man, lived in the jail, and his wife cooked prisoner meals, but that was not the law. A sheriff can appoint anyone as jail matron. 5. False. The Open Door Law says public business must be conducted in public meetings and a majority of a public body can’t meet in private except for specific reasons described in state law, and even then they must still make final decisions in a public meeting. 6. False. The Open Door Law says you are entitled to attend and see and hear what happens, but it doesn’t require the body to let you speak. Most do allow public comment, and that’s good. A public hearing on a specific issue does entitle you to speak on it, so that is different. 7. Counties are sub units. The point is a county can’t tell the state to “take a hike” if they don’t like state rules, because counties are creatures of the state. Most authority for counties comes from enabling legislation as the state gives certain powers to local government. 8. False. A majority of the property taxes collected in the Courthouse actually go to the schools. 9. Republican. Parke County tends more toward that party, but both parties hold several offices. 10. False. The county executive is the 3-person Commissioners. The county legislative body is also the Commissioners. The County Council is the fiscal body. Both can pass ordinances (laws) so the Council has some legislative authority. It is not easy to understand. 11. False. This doesn’t mean officials can appoint everybody from their party. Several appointed bodies can’t be all one party, so if you are in a certain party you may not be eligible. 12. False. While several offices do have term limits of 8 years out of 12, others have no limits. 13. False. Gas taxes fund highway construction and repairs, not property taxes. 14. True. The state offers an incentive to hire a professional engineer, but the amount has not increased for years and is probably not enough to pay the difference in expected salary. 15. False. While many are published, positions can be filled by internal transfers and direct hiring. How did you do? In the meeting Saturday, some folks got 13 or 14 correct and we had discussions beyond this on many details behind the answers. Most people gain a greater appreciation for local government officials when they understand more of what those public servants must do.Back to Top
The Parke County Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the Parke County Commissioners in March 2007. The Comprehensive Plan is a roadmap for Parke County for the next 20 years. The plan was developed by a committee of Parke County residents. The Comprehensive Plan was also presented at public meetings for review. The plan is available at the following link: Parke County Comprehensive Plan.
The February 9th Meeting of the Parke County Non-Partisan Committee on Political Education program was on the Parke County Comprehensive Plan. Kristin Clary, Executive Directory of the Parke County Redevelopment Commission and Co-Chair of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. was the program presenter.
Kristin explained the history and purpose of the Parke County
Comprehensive Plan. She explained that the Plan was divided into four general
areas: Living, Working, Playing and Learning in Parke County with stated
Goals and Objectives in each area. She reported that the Steering Committee
met on January 30th to begin the process of implementing the Plan. She
reported that the towns in the county had not sent representatives to serve
on the Steering Committee and she is still seeking representation from them.
Each group was encouraged to select the top priorities for implementation in
the next few months and to assign individuals who would work to see that
those objectives were accomplished.
The Living Group is lead by Mark Spelbring and is focusing on litter and trash ordinances and enforcement, and will seek more options for disposal of solid waste and appliances to reduce dumping on county roads. The group will also work to update zoning ordinances to promote systematic development in the County.
The Working Group, lead by Bob Snodgrass, will focus on county infra-structure, particularly waste water treatment facilities, and industrial sites to attract businesses. They will also work with Vermillion County to hopefully acquire the Newport Chemical facility for local development. Hi-speed internet service for the entire county is also one of their objectives.
The Play Group, lead by Doug Weisheit, will concentrate on coordination of various organizations concerned with tourism in the county. They will work to promote year round attractions and the preservation of the county’s historic and rural heritage. A food and beverage tax or “October” sales tax may be considered.
Dr. Leonard Orr will lead the Leaning Group. They will pursue a grant to study the unification of the administration of the county’s schools. All three School Boards have approved the study. Greg Harbison will lead the continuing education efforts. The group will also explore a countywide library system.
Kristin promised to get detailed information about the selected Objectives to the Committee to put on the website.
A television news crew from WTWO arrived and took some shots of the group discussion and later interviewed Kristin. The presentation generated some good questions and lively discussion. Kristin was given a very warm round of applause for her presentation.
The plan is available at the following link: Parke County Comprehensive Plan.
Diane Hazlett, Parke County Auditor, discussed the "Financial Health of Parke County" at the March 8th, 2008 Parke County COPE Meeting. Diane brought a packet of information for all attendees. Diane gave permission to publish the following documents.
The first handout was "How Property Taxes are Collected and Distributed". Click here to view the handout.
The second handout was "Tax Exemption Filing Deadline". Tax exemptions are available to all owner-occupied properties. Tax exemptions are a way to reduce property taxes, however, all homeowners do not file for the available exemptions. Click here to view the handout.
The third handout was "Parke County LOIT Taxes". Diane explained the Parke County Local Income Taxes that were adopted in 2007. Click here to view the handout.
The fourth handout was "Personal Property - Inventory Deduction Reporting". Diane explained how the under reporting of business and commercial inventory is resulting in additional property taxes. Click here to view the handout.
The fifth handout was "Tax Trends". The handout details were tax funds are allocated. Four years of data were presented to show the trend. Click here to view the handout.
The sixth handout was "December 31, 2008 Monthly Financial Statement". The report shows how funds were spent in 2007. Click here to view the handout.
The seventh handout was "2006 Pay 2007 Tax Rates". View the tax rates by township and town. Click here to view the handout.
The eight handout was "A Tax Estimate Worksheet". The worksheet can be used to calculate the amount of your 2007 property tax refund.. Click here to view the handout.Back to Top
The program for the March 22, 2008 Parke County COPE Meeting was presented by Kim Shorter, Parke County Clerk. Kim discussed the upcoming primary election. Here are some points from Kim's presentation:
- Parke County has purchased new optical scan voting machines at a cost of approximately $200,000. The voting machines have arrived and will be used for the May primary. New voter machines were required because the old voting machines are no longer allowed because the vendor went out of business. (The old machines cost $287,000, and were purchased after the 2000 election problems with federal assistance.) In 2008, the Indiana State Legislature passed a law to allocate money to the four counties who purchased voting machine from the defunct vendor. The money will come to the counties only if the federal government provides money to the state.
- The new voting machines will be available for public trial on March 27th and April 11th.
- The deadline for voter registration for the spring primary is April 7th.
- 17 year olds who will be 18 before November 4, 2008 are eligible to register and vote in the May primary. The 17 year olds can vote for all candidates except: school board, state delegates and precinct officers.
- The absentee voting for the May primary begins on April 7th and ends on May 5th. Absentee voting takes place in the courthouse during normal courthouse hours. On Saturday, April 26th and May 3rd absentee voting will be available from 8:00 - Noon.
- There is a special election budget which covers the salaries of the poll workers, food for the poll workers and poll center rental (if required).
The Parke County At-Large County Council candidates were invited to the April 12th COPE Meeting. Read the Meeting Minutes to see which candidates came to the meeting and the questions asked by the audience. Link to Meeting Minutes.Back to Top
The Rockville and Turkey Run School Board candidates were invited to the April 26th COPE Meeting. Read the Meeting Minutes to see which candidates came to the meeting and the questions asked by the audience. Link to School Board Candidate Meeting Minutes.Back to Top
The topic for the May 10th Parke County COPE meeting was about Parke County Highway Commission operations. Department Superintendent Clarence “Randy” Norman was the speaker for the meeting. Read the Meeting Minutes to learn more Link to Meeting Minutes. The following handout on how the State of Indiana distributes highway funds was passed out. Link to State Distribution Formula. The following handout on Parke County Highway Department Funding was also passed out. Link to Parke County Highway Funding.Back to Top
The topic for the June 28th Parke County COPE meeting was Property Taxes and the impact of the new legislation on property taxes, the program was presented by Mark Spelbring. Katie Potter of the Parke County Assessor's Office also discussed the Assessment system. Read the Meeting Minutes to learn more Link to Meeting Minutes. The following handouts were distributed at the meeting:
- Budget Process Information.
- Changes in Assessment Rules.
- Circuit Breaker Property Tax Limits.
- Consequence of Circuit Breakers.
- Estimated Impact on Property Tax.
- Tax Bill 1011.
The topic for the July 26th Parke County COPE meeting was presented by Mike Eslinger, Parke County Sheriff. Sheriff Eslinger talked about issues facing the sheriff's office. Read the Meeting Minutes to learn more Link to Meeting Minutes.Back to Top
The topic for the September 27th Parke County COPE meeting was presented by Diana Peterson, Parke County Health Department Inspector. Diana talked about the duties and responsibilities of the health office. Read the Meeting Minutes to learn more Link to Meeting Minutes.Back to Top
The featured speakers for the meeting were Joe Staigl, Park Manager Cecil M Harden Lake Corp. of Engineers and Mike Clingerman, Park Manager Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area. The topic of this meeting was the Cecil M. Harden Lake, and Raccoon State Recreation Area and the relationship of these organizations to the citizens of the County. Read the Meeting Minutes to learn more Link to Meeting Minutes.Back to Top
The featured topic of this meeting was the Parke County & Indiana State Health Departments. The featured speakers for this meeting were Diana Peterson, Parke County Health Department Inspector, and Debbie Barnhizer, Indiana State Department of Health onsite sewage and septic Inspector. Read the Meeting Minutes to learn more Link to Meeting Minutes.Back to Top