HARRISBURG — Municipalities could be tasked with paying a sliding fee for Pennsylvania State Police, factoring in whether it has a local department, its median income and population.
As part of his budget proposal rolled out Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed the state government assess a fee on each municipality to be adjusted significantly lower for municipalities paying for their own local departments. Wolf has tried to make state police coverage more equitable in recent years, as 67% of municipalities in the state rely entirely on that force for their local law enforcement.
Per Wolf’s projections, a municipality like Conestoga Township, which has discontinued its regional police coverage in recent years, would pay $7.40 per resident using the proposed formula weighing its income levels, full reliance on state police and population. In contrast, areas like Ephrata and Elizabethtown boroughs, which have their own local police department, would pay $1.85 per resident.
Wolf’s 2017 budget proposal suggested a $25-per-resident flat fee for municipalities that relied on state police. Under that plan, municipalities with local departments wouldn’t pay any additional fees.
Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster city, has been pushing legislation for more than a decade to levy a fee on municipalities that cut their local police forces to rely entirely on state police. He said he supports Wolf’s proposal.
“The pushback I’ve gotten literally for 20 years has been, ‘You can’t make us pay because you use state police services also,’ ” Sturla said in an interview Tuesday in his Harrisburg office.
“If municipalities that do have a police force have to pay a tiny bit of that in order to get the others to pay the lion’s share, I’m OK with that,” he added.
Although Sturla has been a main proponent for taxing municipalities for relying on state police, much of the rest of Lancaster County’s delegation has opposed it. Almost all of the southern and more rural parts of Lancaster County rely on state police, according to newspaper records, meaning lawmakers from those areas would be asked to further tax their constituents.
Sen. Scott Martin, R-Martic Township, who represents the southern half of Lancaster County, has opposed Wolf’s state police fee proposals. His spokesman said Martin wants to receive more details about how the fee would work before deciding whether he supports it. He also has requested new incident data for every municipality in the state, which is not yet available.
House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Peach Bottom, also has had concerns with the state police fee proposal, noting larger cities including Philadelphia still use a lot of state police resources — totaling $24.59 million per year for Philadelphia alone for its 1.6 million people, on top of the Philadelphia Police Department, according to the governor’s office records.
In comparison, Lancaster County’s state police troop costs $16 million per year to protect its 500,000 residents, in addition to service provided by the local police departments.
Since these concerns have been addressed, Cutler’s office will “take a closer look” at the proposal, his spokesman Mike Straub said in an email.