Pennsylvania Legislature to Hear Bill Eliminating Municipal Governments

In a proposal widely viewed as unlikely to pass, but still reflecting the troubled times facing local governments everywhere, a Pennsylvania State Legislator has introduced a bill to consolidate all municipal functions into the county governments and centralize their management.

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Pennsylvania has a lot of municipalities.

There are cities of varying sizes, townships, boroughs and even one town. All told, there are 2,562 of them — each with their own elected officials.

That’s about 2,495 too many for Rep. Thomas Caltagirone.

The Berks County Democrat has introduced legislation calling for what he describes as a “massive shift” in the operations of local governments. His bill would call for a state constitutional amendment to have Pennsylvania’s 67 county governments absorb all the municipalities within their borders, and operate under a single countywide structure.

He cites a number of reasons for the idea: the rising cost of government and increasing property taxes, landlocked communities with stagnant tax bases and a loss of industries and business.

“You have such duplication of services with boroughs, townships, cities and counties, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense on economies of scale,” he said. “We should be able to hopefully save some money through more efficient operations provided on a countywide basis.”

Maryland frequently looks to surrounding states for comparisons and models for governance and policy — and the contrast between Pennsylvania and Maryland in this regard could not be more stark. MACo regularly advises caution in making important decisions based on such simplified comparisons — but it is true that Pennsylvania’s many-tiered series of overlapping and competing local government units stands as a bold contrast to the far less complex system in Maryland, where many services and functions are already consolidated within county government.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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