Small York County towns aren't keen on Wolf's state police fee
Gov. Tom Wolf's bid to charge local governments that rely on state police coverage has raised concerns among officials in York County's smaller municipalities.
The Democrat once again proposed a fee for areas without local police departments in his Tuesday, Feb. 5, budget address — a move that would bring in roughly $104 million to fund three new cadet classes and improve public safety, according to Wolf's draft budget.
Wolf has proposed similar measures in the past, including a static fee regardless of population. But state lawmakers scuttled the idea after outcry from local governments.
"The state can no longer supplement local and municipal law enforcement agencies’ reliance on PSP services at no cost while they suspend their own services," Wolf spokesman JJ Abbott said.
Impact of fee: If the proposal survives the Republican-controlled Legislature's budget process, municipalities with fewer than 2,000 residents would pay $8 per resident, and those with more than 20,000 would pay $166. Those municipalities between the two segments would be subject to a sliding scale, making a direct correlation between population and how much residents pay.
Abbott noted the fee is just a fraction of what 10 million state residents already pay in support of their local and regional police departments — and the proposal would not affect approximately 80 percent of the state's population.
But it would affect more than half of the state's low-population municipalities, according to the state police.
York County has 21 municipalities that rely on state police rather than local departments. Combined, they would have to shell out more $2 million to continue to use state police resources.
In East Hopewell Township, an area that has saved costs by using PSP troopers and faces little crime, such a fee would take a toll on the municipality of less than 2,500 residents, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Dean Miller.
"It's going to put a hurt on us, and we're going to have to raise taxes just to pay for it," Miller said, adding the supervisors will be discussing the matter in an upcoming meeting.
If the state police fee makes its way into law, the township would have to pay roughly $17 per resident, or just more than $41,000 annually.
Warrington Township, a municipality with just more than 4,500 residents, is in the same position, said township manager Rebecca Bradshaw.
The township would be responsible for $33 per resident, totaling $151,000 annually — a cost that could lead to a tax increase. Bradshaw said the municipality's revenue from property taxes is less than half of what the state police fee would cost.
Some already opting out: Several local municipalities have already opted out of regional police coverage or are in the process of doing so, citing costs and other reasons.
The state police fee is not a concern for all municipalities.
Red Lion, for example, left York Area Regional Police in 2014 and has since been relying on state police services.
"If the case would be that we would have to contribute to the state police, we'd be more than willing to," borough council President Tony Musso said. "We're very happy with their services."
The state police fee would gather roughly $315,000 from the borough's 6,300 residents, less than half of what the municipality had to pay the regional police before breaking away several years ago.
Musso said there are no concerns for raising taxes, but in a worst-case scenario, the borough might have to suspend road work projects to set money aside for the fee.
North Codorus Township, despite having more than 9,000 residents, is in the same boat as Red Lion.
The township is planning to cut ties with Southwestern Regional Police in 2020, and the municipality would still be saving money if the fees go into effect, according to Treasurer Sharon Kerchner.
"I don't believe (the fee) would be a concern — any way you look at it, it would still be quite a savings," Kerchner said, citing the nearly $1 million annual fee the township paid the regional police department.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.
Meet our staff: Logan Hullinger John Pavoncello, The York Dispatch