The trustee is the chief administrative officer of the township and
must reside in that township. Residents of the township elect the trustee for
a term of four years. The trustee's salary is established by the township
board (formerly called township advisory board) but may not be less than the
amount paid in 1980, prior to the repeal of the legal minimums.
The trustee prepares the annual township budget for submission to the
township board and has general control over all property belonging to the
township. The trustee also serves as chief administrative officer for township
schools and, in townships having a population of less than 8,000, serves as
township assessor. Other responsibilities of the trustee relate to areas as
diverse as poor relief, recreation and fire protection. These duties are
outlined in the following sections.
Tow nship Assistance Duties. Every township trustee has a pr imary
obligation of caring for destitute people who appeal for aid. The original
designation of the trustee was "overseer of the poor," a term that first
appeared in the Elizabethan Poor Laws of 1572. Because provisions for
township government and the procedure for laying out township boundaries
were established in 1790 in the Acts of the Northwest Territory, township
trustees and poor relief existed in Indiana before the state was admitted to
When a person or family claiming to be poor and in distress seeks aid,
the township trustee is obliged to grant relief if the need is verified and
residency or intent to establish residency is verified. Such relief includes food,
shelter, clothing, utility bills and school lunches.
The trustee may employ and fix the salaries of investigators of
township assistance claimants within prescribed limits. The trustee may
designate the county school attendance officer as such an investigator; if the
county commissioners approve, the attendance officer is required to serve.
In township assistance activities, the trustee must follow a law
requiring uniform budgeting of all poor relief funds and the filing of such
budgets with the county auditor. Township relief traditionally is "in kind" in
that the recipient receives written allowances for groceries or services, not
cash. However, townships with a population of 20,000 or more now may, with
approval of the county commissioners, assume the responsibility (previously
assigned only to the county auditor) of processing all claims and then issuing
checks to the vendors.
The trustee must, in cases of necessity, promptly provide medical and
surgical attendance for the township poor that are not provided for in public
institutions and also furnish any medicines that are prescribed. This
responsibility specifically includes the provision of insulin for diabetics,
including authorization to provide special diets if prescribed. Additionally,
the trustee of the poor must provide for and superintend the burial of
deceased indigent people.
• Other guidelines related to the trustee's township assistance
responsibilities include the following:
• Removal to county home
The trustee shall have paupers (permanent charges of the
township) removed to the county home, subject to the approval
of the county's board of commissioners.
• Work required
If people applying for assistance are in good health, or if any
members of their family are in good health, the trustee shall insist
that those able to work seek employment. The trustee may refuse
to furnish any aid until satisfied that the people wanting help are
looking to find work for themselves.
• Responsible relatives
If the people applying for township aid have relatives able to assist
them who are living in the township, it is the duty of the trustee,
before giving aid a second time, to call on such relatives of the
people and ask them to help their relatives, either with material
relief or by furnishing them with employment.
• Cooperation with private agencies
It is the duty of each trustee to ascertain the existence, if any, in
the township of societies for relief of the poor or other organizations
for charitable purposes, and to become acquainted with the work
of all such relief organizations and to cooperate with them.
It is unlawful for the trustee to furnish transportation at the cost
of the township to any non-resident who may be sick, aged,
injured or crippled until after the legal residence of the person
applying for such assistance has been ascertained beyond
a reasonable doubt.
• Records of relief
Every trustee and other official who administers relief from
the public funds to indigent people who are not inmates of
any public institution must keep records of such relief.
Because the office of township trustee is a public office, the
law requires that the trustee's records and books remain
open for public inspection.
• Conduct of rehabilitation, training and work programs
For recipients of poor relief, the township trustee, with the
approval of the township board, may conduct rehabilitation,
training, retraining and work programs. The costs of such
programs are paid from poor relief funds.
Eradication of Weeds. Another obligation of the trustee can include
requiring owners of real estate located "in a subdivision of any lots situated
in his or her township, including lots in unincorporated towns, and outside of
the corporate limits of any city or town," to cut and remove weeds and other
detrimental plants on that property. The order may be in the form of a five-
day written notice served by certified mail. If the landowner fails to take the
requested action, the trustee may have the vegetation removed and charge
• the cost to the landowner, along with a $20 charge for supervision of the
There is a legal penalty for noncompliance. Should the owner fail to
pay the sum due within the prescribed time, the amount shall be added to
the tax due on the affected property and collected as taxes are collected.
Duties Related to Schools. In those school districts still administered
by trustees (nine districts in three counties), the trustee is vested with almost
complete powers in school matters. These powers are subject, of course, to
supervision and review by certain state agencies and by the township board.
In counties adopting the county unit plan of school administration or
in which township school corporations are otherwise reorganized under the
jurisdiction of school boards, the trustees cease to individually administer the
schools of their townships.
The duties of the trustee, as school administrator, are as follows:
• To employ teachers with the approval of the superintendent
• To establish and conveniently locate a sufficient number of
schools for the education of the township children
• To provide suitable school buses, transportation, furniture,
apparatus and other articles and educational appliances
necessary for efficient management of schools
Trustees of two or more townships may initiate a plan, with approval
of the Commission on General Education of the Indiana State Board of
Education, for forming a metropolitan or consolidated school district. Special
school funds may then be used to purchase firefighting apparatus to be used
outside city and town limits.
To finance the completion of school buildings or additions under
construction, school and civil townships are authorized to issue bonds.
Issuing Reports. In addition to the aforementioned duties, the trustee must
examine and settle all accounts and demands chargeable against the
township. Specifically, the trustee must keep an accurate and current
account showing amounts received into and paid out of each fund, who was
paid, as well as all receipts and expenditures in one general account.
The trustee shall file all accounts as vouchers and report the same to
the township board in the annual settlement. The law provides that the
township trustee must have the annual report published within four weeks of
the time it is filed.
Immediately after this annual settlement, the county treasurer must,
at the directive of the county auditor, pay the proper township trustee all funds
belonging to each township. The records and other books of the
township trustee must always be open for public inspection.
Summer Recreation Programs. The trustee has the authority, either
independently or in cooperation with a school board, school corporation, city,
town or other governmental unit, to establish and sponsor summer recreation
programs. The cost is to be paid from civil township funds.
Community Services. Within funding capabilities, the trustee has wide
authority to establish or maintain a variety of community services. These
include, but are not limited to, programs for the elderly, as well as parks.
Fire Protection. The trustee, with the consent of the township board, may
purchase firefighting equipment and employ firefighters or may join with the
trustee of one or more adjoining townships in providing joint fire protection.
The trustee may contract with cities, towns or volunteer firefighting
companies to supply fire protection, ambulance service and paramedic
Serving as Assessor. In addition to the duties outlined previously, the
trustee serves as assessor in townships with a population of up to 8,000.
Townships with populations of 5,000 to 8,000 may choose to elect an assessor.
Deputies may be employed by the trustee to assist in the assessing duties.
Serving on the Township Park and Recreation Board. Beginning in 1993,
townships were able to establish a township park and recreation board
consisting of the trustee and three members appointed by the trustee. The
enabling statute allows such boards to receive park funds from the Indiana
Department of Natural Resources.
Additional Duties. Beyond the duties already described, other
obligations of the trustee are as follows:
• To keep a true record of official proceedings of the township
office To receive and disburse all monies belonging to the township
• To have the care and management of all property, real and
personal, belonging to the township, with authority to bind
the township within the limitations of the trustee's function
(this includes the authority to enter into leases with private
businesses for the mining of oil and gas on township
• To care for abandoned cemeteries
• To administer oaths where necessary in the discharge of
duties of office
• To serve property owners with ditch-cleaning notices on
behalf of the county surveyor
• To build line fences where the affected property owners fail
to agree to do so
• To serve as a notary public (although he or she may not
charge for such service)
• To appoint an attorney to defend in any suit or proceeding in
which the township may be interested
• To serve as "park governor" in relation to township parks, no
matter whether a township park board has been established
To collect the township's dog tax (when assuming the duties of a