The commonwealth’s bid to get local municipalities to help pay for state police has a new wrinkle this year — Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing that every municipality chip in, even those with their own local police departments.
It means, for instance, White Township could wind up coughing up $543,091.27, or $36.78 per person, while Indiana Borough could be called upon to pay $120,251.72, or $9.19 per person.
“Across the commonwealth, 67 percent of municipalities rely on the Pennsylvania State Police to provide local police support,” according to the governor’s “Budget In Brief” document. “This coverage comes at no cost to the municipality, but instead is borne by all taxpayers statewide. However, PSP also provides services that benefit all citizens of the commonwealth.”
So, in one way or another, 100 percent of municipalities could be called upon to contribute $136 million.
“The budget proposes an adjusted methodology to charge municipalities for state police coverage,” according to a summary prepared for Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County. “The proposal would be assessed on every municipality in the commonwealth with a weighting for municipalities with full- or part-time (local police) services.”
For White Township that is about a quarter of what was suggested in Wolf’s 2019-20 plan.
For Indiana and eight other Indiana County municipalities, it is an assessment reduced but not wiped out by the presence of local police departments.
“This fee is predicated on station coverage costs, which are driven by incidents and coverage area, and consider various factors, including population and income,” state budget officials wrote in their “Brief.”
It is the latest in a series of such proposals, dating to Gov. Tom Ridge’s administration in the 1990s. It is the third proposed by Wolf, who two years ago sought $25 per person from local municipalities that use state police, while last year he offered a sliding scale where a municipality using state troopers would pay anywhere from $8 to $166 per person.
Using that scale, White Township’s share was set at $133 per person, or $2,170,826. It was an idea rejected by township supervisors, who urged the county’s state legislative delegation to vote against it.
For areas served by the Troop A, Indiana station in White Township, state officials said $11,656,123 is the annual cost for state police service, or $148.93 for each of the 78,264 residents in 12 boroughs and 20 townships in all but the northern tier of Indiana County.
Two boroughs and four townships with a combined population of 5,272 are among areas covered by Troop C, Punxsutawney, where $10,503.080 is spent each year. That is an average cost per resident of $295.52 in a coverage area with 35,541 residents in Jefferson as well as parts of Clearfield and Indiana counties.
Also nearby are:
• Troop A, Greensburg ($22,867,965 spent per year, $120.29 for each of 190,102 residents in 34 Westmoreland County municipalities)
• Troop A, Ebensburg ($6,980,480, $52.99 for each of 131,730 residents in 64 Cambria County municipalities)
• Troop A, Kiski Valley ($5,639,335, $42.74 for each of 131,940 residents in 25 Westmoreland County municipalities)
• Troop D. Kittanning ($8,461.648, $124.80 for each of 67,802 residents in all of Armstrong and two Route 28 municipalities in Allegheny County)
That would make the cost per municipality in the Indiana coverage area range from $17,065.85 in Armagh to $2,172,365.07 in White Township, with Indiana second at $1,924,027.52, Center Township third at $658,653.56, and Burrell and Green townships over $500,000 apiece.
However, the formula for each municipality’s share then goes through a process that takes into consideration such factors as the presence of a local police force and median income.
That reduces Indiana’s proposed share, while even without its own local police force White Township’s proposed share also drops, as does every other area municipality.
State budget officials deem it “essential to find a solution that closes the funding gap caused by the decreasing reliance on Motor License Fund support,” according to the “Budget in Brief.”
As approved in fiscal 2016-17, funding from the MLF to state police was capped at $801 million, with a schedule to decrease that amount to $500 million by 2027-28. The aim is to dedicate more motor-license funds to rebuild deteriorating roads and bridges.
So, in order to generate $136 million toward that gap, budget officials said, “The PSP has developed a model that is fair, reasonable, and a good starting point for ongoing discussions.”
David M. Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, representing 1,454 townships of the second class, called it “unfortunate that some in state government look at local government like an ATM machine,” rather than a partner in providing services.
“Rather than controlling costs, their first instinct is to grab more money either through tax increases, fee hikes, or intergovernmental transfers,” Sanko said. “This latest scheme to pick the pockets of local governments’ residents in the name of public safety for costs of the state police is nothing more than the 2020 version of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
For many municipalities in Indiana County areas covered by the Troop A, Indiana barracks, the proposed cost per person would be $36.78: Armstrong Township, $104,969.69; Black Lick Township, $42,922.09; Brush Valley Township, $64,548.64; Burrell Township, $60,936.86; Center Township, $164,663.39; Cherryhill Township, $96,510.33; Conemaugh Township, $79,334.14; East Mahoning Township, $37,405.11; East Wheatfield Township, $81,835.17; Ernest, $15,962.45; Grant Township, $25,488.44; Green Township, $132,407.46; Montgomery Township, $54.323.84; Pine Township, $70,580.53; Plumville, $10,629.38; Rayne Township, $103.903.08; Shelocta, $4,487.14; South Mahoning Township, $63,923.38; Washington Township, $62,452.19; West Wheatfield Township, $79,444.48; and Young Township, $61,091.33.
Armagh’s share would be $10,751.49 or $92.69 per person. Other municipalities would pay less than $36.78 per person. Beside Indiana, that would include Blairsville, $29,819.26 ($9.19); Burrell Township, $60,936.86 ($14.71); Cherry Tree, $2,508.39 ($7.36); Clymer, $9,378.86 ($7.36); Creekside, $4,281.17 ($14.71); Homer City, $$29,479.05 ($18.39); Marion Center, $6,208.44 ($14.71); and Saltsburg, $14,932.62 ($18.39).
In Indiana County areas covered by Troop C, Punxsutawney, Banks and Canoe townships each would be assessed $73.88 per person, the usual amount across the Punxs’y service area, with Banks expected to ante up $70,333,78, Canoe $103,870.08, while four other municipalities each would be assessed $29.55 per person, or $6,767.41 in Glen Campbell, $39,658.80 in North Mahoning Township, $1,270.74 in Smicksburg; and $37,619.71 in West Mahoning Township.
In communities near the Indiana County line, assessments would include:
• Armstrong County: Apollo, $9,597.07 ($6.24 per person); Atwood, $8,019.61 ($78.62); Cowanshannock Township, $86,298.78 ($31.20); Dayton, $6,427.17 ($12.48); Elderton, $10,607.95 ($31.20); Kiskiminetas Township, $140,680.11 ($31.20); North Apollo, $18,922.71 ($15.60); Plumcreek Township, $69,513.26 ($31.20); Rural Valley, $12,823.14 ($15.60); South Bend Township, $34,444.63 ($31.20); and Wayne Township, $35,037.43 ($31.20).
• Cambria County: Barr Township, $25,621.06 ($13.25); Blacklick Township, $5,010.28 ($2.65); Jackson Township, $13,499.41 ($3.31); Nanty-Glo, $16,645.74 ($6.62); Northern Cambria, $23,474.93 ($6.62); Susquehanna Township, $12,313.74 ($6.62); and Vintondale, $1,006.83 ($2.65).
• Clearfield County: Bell Township, $53,710.78 ($73.88); Burnside, $6,560.55 ($29.55); Burnside Township, $30,881.85 ($29.55); Chest Township, $14,716.90 ($29.55); Mahaffey, $26,153.53 ($73.88); New Washington, $1,654.91 ($29.55); Newburg, $2,777.89 ($29.55); and Westover, $27,926.65 ($73.88).
• Jefferson County: Bell Township, $145,986.93 ($73.88); Gaskill Township, $50,238.42 ($73.88); Perry Township, $87,621.71 ($73.88); Porter Township, $21,572.97 ($73.88); Punxsutawney, $42.540.12 ($7.39); and Young Township, $125,078.88 ($73.88).
• Westmoreland County: Allegheny Township, $54,312.26 ($6.73); Avonmore, $2,038.78 ($2.14); Bell Township, $24,362.75 ($10.69); Derry, $13,517.05 ($5.34); Derry Township, $148,997.44 ($10.69); Loyalhanna Township, $24,181.10 ($10.69); and Washington Township, $18,966.61 ($2.67).