Corbett expected to sign Benninghoff bill to allow for more county flexibility on elected positions

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, said he is looking to put a little more control into the hands of county governments.

His bill that allows counties moving up from fifth class to fourth class because of population shifts to keep the prothonotary and clerk of courts as one position cleared the House and is expected to be signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

“The flexibility this bill will provide will empower county governments to do what is in the best interests of taxpayers,” Benninghoff said.

Corbett spokeswoman Janet Kelley said there is no schedule for the bill to be signed, but that the governor is likely to sign it.

Centre County falls under that distinction and will likely keep prothonotary and clerk of courts as one position, county Administrator Tim Boyde said.

Under current law, when a county moves from fifth class to fourth class, it must separate the offices.

“Ideally we’d like to keep it (one position),” Boyde said. “Our system is working well.”

He added that 50 years ago it might have been tough as counties get bigger to do both jobs. But advancements in technology make it more than manageable.

A county’s class is determined by population, ranging from first class at 1.5 million or more people to eighth class at fewer than 20,000 people.

Keeping the position as one will also free up some space in the Temple Court Building for court administration offices, Boyde said.

The bill also allows the same counties to create one position that functions as the recorder of deeds, register of wills and clerk of orphans’ court. In Centre County, the responsibilities are currently managed by two people.

Boyde said that consolidation would likely save at least one elected official salary — roughly $63,000 — but commissioners Chairman Steve Dershem said the move wouldn’t make sense for the county.

“I would be absolutely, unequivocally against that,” Dershem said, adding that the positions are not similar enough to consolidate.

If the county would decide to consolidate or separate any of the offices, the change wouldn’t take effect until the next election.