First and foremost: I apologize for raising the anxieties of many readers when I reported that Indiana had gone from 1,008 to 1,009 townships.
That was my fault: gross neglect by failing to check my work and my sources when I got an unexpected result. Anyone who works with data knows unexpected results are very likely wrong. Triple check your work before you declare startling news to the world.
The U.S. Census of Governments in 2012 reported Indiana had 1,006 townships, a loss of two since citizens restructured governments in two counties. Gone is Eagle Township from Boone County, replaced by Zionsville and Whitestown. Gone is Mount Pleasant Township from Delaware County, replaced by Yorktown and part of Muncie.
Those four places have assumed the governmental functions of the two former townships. Indiana now has 1,010 county subdivisions.
This is in line with the desires of many conservative and liberal Hoosiers to modernize the provision of government services.
In the 30 years from 1952 to 1982, the U.S. shed nearly 35,000 (23 percent) of its government units (including school districts). During that period, Indiana dropped only 184 (6 percent) of its governments, fifth from last in the nation.
More recently, from 1982 to 2012, the nation reversed course and gained 8,300 government units, a 10 percent increase.
Slow to change during this period, Indiana continued to decrease the number of governments — down 156 units (5 percent), fourth from last in the nation.
In 2012, the Census reported Indiana had 91 counties (Marion County does not count), 569 municipalities (cities and towns), 1,006 townships, 291 independent school districts and 752 special districts (mosquito abatement and other functions). That’s a total of 2,709 governmental units for 6.5 million people, or 41.4 units for each 100,000 persons.
How does that stack up with other states? Nationally, there are 28.7 units/ 100,000; we rank 18th from the top (North Dakota is first at 382/100,000, and Hawaii is 50th at 1.5/100,000).
Our 1,006 townships are a result of 18th century conditions. They are similar to townships in eight other basically flat Midwestern states, where the number of townships is largely a function of the total area of the state. Our 569 municipalities put us 20th in the nation per 100,000 residents and our 291 independent school districts place us 24th per 100,000 persons.
These data might have you asking: Do we have too many governments in Indiana? That is a different question from “Does Indiana have too much government?” The better question is, “Could fewer units of governments achieve as much or more than the existing governmental structure?”
Do our candidates for governor and your candidates for the general assembly have substantive thoughts on the effectiveness and efficiency of government?
I made a numeric error in my last column. Let’s all avoid making the mistake of electing ignorant, unthinking candidates in this coming election.