Many PA towns could pay more for police protection

| 9/2/2010

A Pennsylvania bill would boost State Police funding by charging fees to more than 1,200 municipalities where “patrol services” are provided. The added revenue would benefit road and bridge work.

Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, said in a statement on his website that “only about 21 percent of the state’s population relies on full-time State Police services” for their enforcement needs. Another 6 percent relies on the State Police for part-time services.

About three-quarters of the communities in the state pay for their own local police coverage while also funding State Police coverage for municipalities that don’t have their own local enforcement.

A bill introduced during Pennsylvania’s special session on transportation would authorize the State Police to levy a per person patrol services fee to be paid by each municipality that relies solely, or partly, on the police force for patrols.

Sturla says it makes sense to have municipalities that rely on State Police patrols pay up.

“At a time when Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is deteriorating at a rapid rate, nearly $500 million is being used each year to fund these patrol services instead of being used for critical road and bridge repairs,” he stated.

Municipalities that do not provide local police patrol services, and instead rely solely on the State Police, would pay a per person fee of $52 for the first year. The fee would double to $104 for the second year, and increase to $156 for each year thereafter.

Most municipalities with part-time local departments would also need to chip in. The first-year fee would be $17; the fee would double to $34 for the second year, and increase to $52 each subsequent year.

Opponents say the bill is a lose-lose scenario for residents. People living in the affected communities would be on the hook for an additional $6 million a year in taxes for State Police coverage without getting any additional benefits. And residents of communities with their own police force would not get any tax breaks.

Failure by townships to pay the fees would result in forfeiture of all Commonwealth funding including liquid fuels and fuel use tax payments. They would also lose privileges of State Police patrol services.

Sturla’s bill – HB15 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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