Centre County municipalities that rely on state police for full-time coverage would be tasked with paying about $1 million if Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2019 budget plan is approved.
According to Wolf, 67 percent of the state’s municipalities rely on state police. The coverage is paid by taxpayers statewide, who — in some cases — also support their local police department through local taxes.
“For the state police, this has put a strain on their ability to respond in these areas, as they assume significant additional responsibility,” the proposal said. “To address this inequity, the (proposed) 2019-20 budget assesses a fee for every person residing in a municipality without local police coverage to pay for the additional burden placed on the state police to provide full coverage for the municipality.”
The population-based fee starts at $8 per person for municipalities with less than 2,000 residents and gradually escalates to $166 per person for municipalities with more than 20,000 residents.
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Centre County has 35 townships or boroughs. Seven of those — Bellefonte, College, Ferguson, Harris, Patton, Spring and State College — rely on some form of a local police force. The remaining 28 rely on state police.
Under Wolf’s plan, Benner Township would pay the most — $160,611 — of any Centre County municipality. Walker Township would follow close behind at $155,793, followed by Rush, Potter and Boggs townships.
There were 4,442 inmates at either Rockview or Benner state prisons — both in Benner Township — as of Dec. 31, but they will not count toward the township’s population, according to the governor’s press office.
Despite being asked to pay a fraction of the cost of local police coverage, Benner Township Secretary and Treasurer Sharon Royer and Walker Township Chairman Keith Harter said the potential added cost would represent a sizable portion of the townships’ $1.68 million and $708,000 budgets, respectively.
“I don’t overall like it,” Harter said Thursday. “I can see his point and I can see where communities that have their own police forces would agree with it. I think if the general assembly would give him some of his other initiatives ... we wouldn’t have to go this route.”
The 50,225 residents covered by state police would pay, on average, $19 per year for police coverage.
Harris and College townships each have a shared services contract with State College police. A resident from one of those three municipalities pays about $225 per year for police coverage. It’s about $219 in Bellefonte Borough; $197 in Patton Township; $122 in Ferguson Township; and $106 in Spring Township.
If the proposal passes, Harter said “a tax increase would be likely,” in Walker Township, though the township hasn’t recently discussed sharing local police services.
The potential local tax increase for municipalities also sheds light on Wolf’s claim that his proposal “asks for no new taxes.”
Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said Friday the proposal is still under review and upcoming budget hearings will allow the Senate to “see what exactly the governor is asking from our communities.”
“Any time there is a plan to ask residents for more of their hard earned dollars, we take great caution to ensure the plan is something that is responsible and reasonable,” Kocher said.
Proposed state police cost to Centre County municipalities
Benner Township: $160,611
Walker Township: $155,793
Rush Township: $132,066
Potter Township: $89,825
Boggs Township: $75,050
Halfmoon Township: $47,481
Philipsburg Borough: $46,444
Gregg Township: $41,174
Liberty Township: $36,227
Miles Township: $34,391
Snow Shoe Township: $14,072
Haines Township: $12,680
Union Township: $11,392
Huston Township: $11,152
Marion Township: $10,112
Centre Hall Borough: $10,008
Penn Township: $9,552
Milesburg Borough: $8,704
Howard Township: $7,648
Millheim Borough: $7,120
Taylor Township: $6,936
Worth Township: $6,656
Snow Shoe Borough: $6,192
Howard Borough: $5,888
Port Matilda Borough: $4,792
Curtin Township: $4,760
Burnside Township: $3,488
Unionville Borough: $2,360
*Figures calculated based on 2017 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and data from the governor’s press office