From the President: Time to Give Local Government a Helping Hand

December 18, 2009

Judy Schwank

Dear Friends:

What does your local tax bill look like for 2010?

Chances are, your city, township or borough may be facing such a large budget shortfall that you and your neighbors could be forced to pay higher property taxes, and at the same time live with deep cuts to vital services, possibly including police and fire protection.
Times are tough for many local governments. Most communities have done all they can to cut the so-called "frills" from their budgets and are looking at alternatives like sharing services with other communities, or as a last resort, raising taxes.

We at 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania applaud leaders who are seriously reviewing entering into shared services agreements for fire and police departments and other essential local government services. This is long overdue.

A recent study commissioned by the Pennsylvania State Planning Board to review the cost savings of shared services indicates that sharing services saves taxpayer dollars over the long term and perhaps even more importantly, will preserve the service that currently exists. Many communities that are facing higher health care and pension costs for their police service have found that sharing the costs and services with other communities isn’t a bad deal if the alternative is shutting their department down. There is no escaping the reality that all levels of government have to look harder at how they can work more efficiently and effectively.

Unfortunately wringing every locally generated tax dollar for maximum value may not be enough to stave off municipal tax increases or service cuts. Our state legislators need to step up to the plate as well. Action is needed now at the State legislature to give local municipalities a way to balance their budgets.

There is a reasonable alternative to escalating property taxes and cuts to essential service.
House Bill 1858 is one legislative proposal that might give local government a helping hand. This legislation would allow counties to enact a 1% sales tax increase –spreading the burden among all consumers rather than just property owners. The new revenue would be used by county and local governments to provide property tax relief and vital government services. This important property tax relief bill may be considered by the PA House of Representatives in the next few days. House Bill 1682, another legislative proposal which also enable counties to generate a 1% sales tax also includes funding for assisting communities in sharing services. 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania supports both bills.

The critical services that impact our lives on a daily basis are delivered by local government. Our lives literally depend on these services. We expect the fire company, police and other emergency services to respond when we need them. It’s up to us to demand that all levels of government work together so those services remain.

It’s urgent that you contact your state representative and ask them to support legislative initiatives like HB 1858, The Optional Sales Tax for School Property Tax Relief and County and Municipal Assistance Act.

We know that it can work, because it has worked well in Pennsylvania already. For almost 15 years, Allegheny County has successfully used a 1% sales tax to fund public libraries and parks, museums, cultural organizations, major regional facilities, and local municipal services such as police and roads. Other Pennsylvania communities should have the same authority and opportunity available to address their local circumstances.


Judy Schwank
President and CEO
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania 

Please feel free to contact me in the Harrisburg at the central office of 10,000 Friends. My email is, or call me at 717-234-6070.