State College Councilwoman Theresa Lafer was recently appointed as the borough’s voting delegate for the National League of Cities Congress of Cities Exposition to be held this month.
Lafer, along with fellow council members Tom Daubert and Cathy Dauler, will travel to Austin, Texas, to take part in the semiannual event. The NLC sponsors two major events each year, borough Manager Tom Fountaine said — one in Washington, D.C., each March, and one in a different city each year.
“The National League of Cities provides us with a number of important opportunities,” Lafer said in an email, “which include policy development, education and finance. Over the years, through this membership, our mayor, various members of council and the borough administration have invested the time and effort both to learn and to share.”
The NLC allows the borough to communicate about common problems and solutions with similar communities across the country, Lafer said. It also strengthens the ties State College has with other university towns, allowing them to share resources and confront problems such as binge drinking, housing options and improving student-resident relations.
“State College is a leader in both the University Communities Committee and the International Town-Gown Association, and this involvement has been very much to our benefit over the years,” she said.
The NLC also provides its members with an opportunity to visit with Pennsylvania senators and members of the House, Lafer said, allowing them to “present personally and directly our region’s needs, challenges and successes with each of them.”
Fountaine said one of the key items the NLC has been instrumental in working on has been partnering with Congress in community development block grant funds for home funding.
The borough is receiving just less than $800,000 in grants that support the local community, he said, which goes into a variety of local agencies to support their missions as well as funding public infrastructure projects.
The NLC has been an important advocate for those grants, he said, adding, “If not for those funds, we would have had to raise money locally to do that.”
Participation in the NLC has also helped bring attention to new laws enacted by Congress and how they have affected municipalities, he said.
The council has been a part of the NLC for about 15 years, Fountaine said. The borough’s membership comes as part of its membership with the Pennsylvania Municipal League, assistant borough secretary Sharon Ergler said.
The PML is made up of 73 cities, towns, boroughs and townships, representing 3.3 million Pennsylvania residents, according to the PML website.
Membership dues to the NLC are based on a municipality’s population, according to the NLC website. With a population of 41,757, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, annual dues for the borough come to $3,813.
The 2014 PMC annual dues cost $16,814, Fountaine said, saying that lobby work and participation in different programs end up in savings to the borough.
Through the NLC, the borough is part of a prescription drug discount program, which allows State College residents access to the program.
“In 2013 and 2014, residents have saved a little over $5,000 in prescription drug costs from this program,” he said. “That’s savings directly into their pockets.”
One to three council members typically travel to each of the NLC events, Fountaine said. Costs can run from $2,000 to $2,750 per member, depending on the city.
“Many times they can go to Los Angeles cheaper than Washington when you take hotels and meals into account,” he said.
According to the borough’s 2014 annual budget, there is $30,000 budgeted for municipal memberships, and $6,000 for dues, memberships and subscriptions.
“It’s part of the normal budget,” Ergler said. “They’re also very careful to stay within the budgeted amount.”