Local Government Officals Survey

The Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (IACIR) periodically collects information on current issues affecting local governments in Indiana and/or services available to Indiana residents. In 2010, the IACIR surveyed nearly 1,150 local government officials, including mayors, county auditors, county commissioners, county and town council members, school board members, and township trustees. The response rate was 35 percent. A summary of findings from the full 2010 survey can be found at the IACIR website (www.iacir.spea.iupui.edu). You will need a free copy of Adobe Reader to read the documents.

Attitudes toward PILOTs

This briefing explores the extent to which, and reasons why, Indiana local government officials (LGOs) may support requiring charities that own real estate to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs). The authors found that support varied by the type of charity involved. More than two-fifths of LGOs (41 percent) said they were in favor of requiring PILOTs from private universities or schools, compared to about a third (34 percent) who said nonprofit hospitals should pay and a quarter (27 percent) who said churches should make PILOTs. 

The briefing also explores reasons why LGOs may support such PILOT policies. The authors find that LGOs are more likely to support PILOTs if their communities are undergoing economic distress, are urban areas, or have high voter turnout. Personal attitudes and experiences also play a role: LGOs who believe local government should exert some control over nonprofits and who are involved with a large number of nonprofit areas support PILOTs more than their counterparts.

Trust in Nonprofits

This briefing examines the extent to which local government officials say they trust local charities and other nonprofits to do the “right thing. Overall, Indiana local government officials say they trust local nonprofits more than they trust local businesses or other units of local government, and much more than they trust the state government in Indianapolis or the federal government. The briefing also examines a number of possible explanations for why local government officials may trust local charities and other nonprofits, such as their personal involvement with nonprofits, political and economic conditions in their communities, and having good working relationships with nonprofits.

When considering all factors together, higher levels of trust were found among LGOs who:

  • Are personally involved with nonprofits related to philanthropy and promotion of voluntarism or with law, advocacy, and political nonprofits
  • Trust other local institutions
  • Work in metropolitan counties
  • Govern in counties with relatively low levels of aggregate nonprofit revenues.

The type of position held by LGOs is also important as trust is relatively low among LGOs who are mayors, council members, or township trustees.

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Nonprofit-Government Relationships

This briefing explores whether local government officials (LGOs) in Indiana support a collaborative relationship between local government and nonprofits as opposed to one where government controls nonprofits. Overall, a larger proportion of LGOs expressed support for a collaborative relationship than one of control.

The briefing also investigate factors that might explain LGO support for collaboration with nonprofits. Controlling for all other factors, the findings show that support for a collaborative relationship is higher for LGOs who view their personal involvement with nonprofits to be important to their government work; those involved with education and philanthropic nonprofits; those who perceive community health conditions to be a problem in their community, and those in communities with relatively low overall nonprofit assets. Additionally, support for collaboration is lower among LGOs who view quality of life in the community as a problem.

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PILOTs and SILOTs

This briefing assesses local government officials’ opinions on nonprofit property tax policies, PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), and SILOTs (services in lieu of taxes). The Indiana State Constitution authorizes local governments to exempt nonprofits from property taxes if they engage in certain charitable activities.These policies are designed to benefit nonprofits and acknowledge the public value that they create. Similarly, governmental buildings (e.g., court houses, public schools, city community centers) also are excluded from property taxes.

Faced with decreasing revenues and growing budgets, however, some municipalities are reconsidering nonprofit property tax exemptions. Cities and counties rely heavily on property taxes to fund essential services like schools, police and fire departments, garbage collection and snow removal, road construction and maintenance, public libraries, etc. Some local governments have instituted PILOTs and SILOTs to recover a portion of the revenue they would receive if nonprofit and public properties were taxed. Many nonprofits, which have also found themselves cash strapped after the recent recession, oppose such policies.

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2-1-1 Information Service

The purpose of this briefing is to use the IACIR Local Government Official survey results to assess to what extent local government officials are familiar with 2-1-1 services, both at large and within their own communities.

The 2-1-1 program is a national telephone initiative to provide information and referral services to individu-als seeking help or volunteer opportunities in the areas of health and human services. Trained Information and Referral Specialists connect callers, free of charge, with information regarding local organizations. This service helps individuals in need navigate available assistance in their local communities.

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