Nebraska bill to streamline payments to townships, moves forward

BEATRICE – Taking action on a consent calendar bill in the Nebraska Legislature is normally a fairly routine matter.....but not always.

A consent calendar bill on the process of paying funds to townships was advanced by lawmakers on a 43-vote today, but not before one lawmaker raised the issue about whether township government is a good idea. Senator Myron Dorn’s LB 41 was simply a method to direct deposit funds townships have coming to them, just like other local forms of government.

"In Nebraska, there are 22 counties with townships. A year ago this was brought to my attention that a township had to submit a paper warrant every time they wanted money transferred from the county to the township. These funds are township funds, but only townships had to submit the warrants and request the funds. LB 41 streamlines this process and allocates to the township their monthly allotment, like the other entities listed in the statute."

Gage County has long had the township form of government. Senator Steve Erdman, who voted to advance the bill…still questioned the cost-effectiveness of that governmental arrangement.

"Isn't the township form of government a duplication of services? (Dorn).."We've had that discussion in the county part of this, we've also had the discussion in our county about duplication of service. We have 24 townships, so there's 24 graders. The county, itself has 8 graders that operate on gravel roads. If we got rid of the township form of government, the county would need at least a minimum of 8 more road graders to do that operation."

Dorn said township board members have minimal compensation, but most in his county don’t accept the money. The township boards have their own budgets and hire their own road maintenance personnel.  Higher-traffic county gravel roads are maintained by the county, while lesser traveled lower-classification roads are maintained by townships. Erdman pressed on about that arrangement.

"Wouldn't it make sense to eliminate the townships and just have a county form of government? (Dorn)..."That would require a vote of the people in that county to eliminate the townships. It's been brought up several times at the NACO's been brought up in our county. We have a yearly county-township meeting. Every time we would bring that up or have that for discussion the resounding result was no, they wanted to keep what they have because now they have a local person they can call, on those local roads."

Dorn and Erdman disagreed on whether the township form of government results in higher taxes. Senator Bruce Bostelman says his Butler County has 17 townships.

"In Butler County we value them quite a bit. This is an issue that I do appreciate you bringing as far as them getting funding in time, because that's always an issue for them. But, I can tell you they are very active on our roadways and ditches and those type of things...and providing other support for us in the county. It's a needed service."

Dorn says the township boards in Gage County take their work very seriously and do “an outstanding job.”