Ridge police-tax proposal thwarted third time

March 26, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Action by the Pennsylvania Legislature this week to again deny Gov. Tom Ridge his plan to charge small towns for state police protection drew a collective sigh of relief from area township administrators and supervisors.

State Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the committee deleted Ridge's proposal in next year's budget calling for a $70-per-capita charge for state police protection in municipalities with populations of 5,000 or more that don't have their own police departments.

Ridge has been trying to get the rural towns to either pay for state police protection or set up their own police departments - a move that has set township supervisors across the state to thinking about combining resources in regional police forces. Such a study was conducted in Franklin County by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Ridge's proposal failed to pass legislative muster in two previous years, most recently in 1997. He didn't propose it last year, but this year he came back with a plan to assess residents in towns with populations of 5,000 or more - a move Fleagle said was designed to spread the cost of state police protection among a bigger population base.


Fleagle said it would make more sense for municipalities without police departments to contract for services from those nearby that do.

Meanwhile, this week's vote by the Appropriations Committee means several Franklin County townships won't face police-related tax hikes beginning next year.

"We were very pleased to hear that news today," said Ben Thomas Jr., an Antrim Township administrator who had predicted an 18 mill tax increase if the governor's request had passed.

"We're at 5 mills now. We would have had to go to 23 mills. Our legal limit is 14. That was just not a feasible proposition," Thomas said.

Antrim supervisors predicted it would cost the township about $735,000 a year for existing state police services under the governor's proposal.

Townships affected by Ridge's proposal would have included Antrim, Greene, Guilford, Hamilton and St. Thomas.

the Antrim Township Supervisors are reviewing a study by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development on regionalizing police departments in Franklin County.

The study breaks the county into two regions. A central police force would include the Borough of Chambersburg and Hamilton, St. Thomas and Letterkenny townships and would cost $2.6 million a year.

It would take $3 million a year to regionalize police protection in the boroughs of Waynesboro and Greencastle and Washington, Antrim and Quincy townships, the study says.

Greencastle, Waynesboro and Washington township have police departments.

Thomas said the idea of a regional police force is still "extremely preliminary."

The Herald-Mail Articles