PA Senate considers upping pay limits for local elected officials

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Rhonda Phillips, left, of West York Borough, speaks about being one of the first bi-racial families in the borough as she speaks during the Council meeting in protest of Mayor Charles Wasko's facebook posts as the community urges Wasko's ousting at the West York Borough Hall in West York Borough, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A two-bill package under consideration in the state Senate would increase the maximum allowable stipend for borough council members and township supervisors in Pennsylvania.

The last time the General Assembly changed the maximum stipend was in 1995, said David Greene, executive director of the Local Government Commission of the General Assembly.

"The central purpose was to make sure that it reflected inflationary changes, so essentially, the legislative intent in setting the limit back then is the same as it is now," Greene said.

Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, is the primary sponsor of both bills, SB 688 and SB 689.

The legislation would not change actual compensation for any elected officials, and there's no requirement for local officials to be paid any stipend for their service.

What it would do is give borough council members and second-class township supervisors the authority to increase compensation in their own municipalities, if they so choose, beyond the current maximum allowed.

The bills would also allow governing bodies to provide compensation on a per-meeting basis.

If an elected official were to fail to attend a properly scheduled meeting without a legitimate excuse, the official could forfeit up to one-twelfth of the annual stipend amount.

"Both the upper limit and the decision to go to a per-meeting compensation schedule is within the discretion of the governing body itself," Greene said.

Some local officials said increasing compensation is not the best way to encourage residents to run for local office.

"From my perspective, if someone is running to make money off of this, you know, it’s really not the intent," said John Whitehouse, a supervisor in Monaghan Township, which had a population of 2,630 people as of the 2010 census.

The current maximum compensation allowed for supervisors in townships with fewer than 5,000 people is $1,875 per year. The inflation adjustment would increase the limit to $3,145 per year.

Supervisors in Lower Windsor Township are paid about $2,500 per year to attend about 15 meetings that last no more than two hours each, which is "very fair compensation," said Chairman Barry Miller.

Miller said he'd be concerned if the compensation increased too much because some people might decide to run for office with the thought that it would be an easy part-time job.

"I think the people doing it now are doing it because they’re actually interested in their municipality," Miller said.

As of the 2010 census, Lower Windsor Township had a population of 7,382 people. The current maximum compensation allowed for a second-class township of that size is $2,500 per year. The inflation adjustment would increase the limit to $4,190 per year.

Mark Swomley, chairman of the board of supervisors in Springettsbury Township, said he didn't even know supervisors were paid until after he was elected.

"I don't think most people here are driven by a small stipend," he said. "That's definitely not why I ran for office."

Springettsbury Township is one of the larger municipalities in York County, with 26,668 residents as of the 2010 census.

A second-class township of that size has a maximum compensation limit of $4,375 per year, which would increase to $7,335 per year under the proposed legislation.

Both bills will be considered when the state Senate is back in session starting Monday, Oct. 21.

More:Tom Ryan, retired York County businessman, running for 48th District Senate seat

More:Phillips-Hill gets two bills addressing opioid epidemic through Senate