What would a fair service for state police services look like? | The Numbers Racket

Pa. State Police SUV (Pa. State Police Facebook Page

At Tuesday’s budget address, and for the third time during his administration, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a fair-service fee for local governments who are covered by the Pennsylvania State Police. 

Unlike past efforts, Wolf’s proposed plan is needs-based, requiring every municipality to pay a fair-service fee based on their use of the state police and a host of other factors.

Hoping that the third time’s the charm, Wolf and his administration said they worked closely with the State Police to come up with a set of factors that would be good determinants for what each municipality should pay.

These factors include population, income and coverage that’s needed.

A set of tiers using the median income of each borough calculates a percentage to be paid by each borough.

The tiers are as follows:

<$50,001 = Tier 1 (.10) or 10%

$50,001 – $80,000 = Tier 2 (.25) or 25%

$80,001 – $110,000 = Tier 3 (.63) or 63%

$110,001 – $150,000 = Tier 4 (.77) or 77%

>$150,001 = Tier 5 (.96) or 96%

Now, let’s examine how this would breakdown in municipalities across the state with data from administration officials. 

Note: Pre-factors refers to current costs without the fair-service fee factors. Post-factors are the costs using the proposed method. 

From the west

In Allegheny County’s Pittsburgh City, here’s how the fair service fee would break down.

$12,396,702.00 … annual station cost for Pennsylvania State Police station in Pittsburgh.

301,048 … the population of the borough.

$62,081 … the median income in that borough.

$3,039,614.61 … Cost per municipality (pre-factors).

$10.10 … Cost per person (pre-factors).

.25 … Full/Part time police department factor.

0.250 … Median income tier factor. So the borough falls into Tier 2, according to the scale.

$189,975.91 … Cost per municipality (post-factors).

$0.63 … proposed cost per person in Pittsburgh City borough.

The difference between the borough cost pre-factors is a whopping $2,849,638.70!

To the north

To get an idea of how these costs will vary from municipality to municipality, let’s take a look at a township in one of the northern-tier counties.

Let’s take, for instance, Warren Township in Bradford County where the population is just 923 people.

The Pennsylvania State Police state in Towanda, has an annual station cost of $7,230,170.00.

The median income in the borough is $55,114.

The cost per municipality (pre-factors) is 109,701.10.

The cost per person (pre-factors) is $118.85.

The township’s full/part time police department factor is 1.

This information puts the township in Tier 2, the same as Pittsburgh City borough.

The cost per municipality (post-factors) for Warren Township is $27,425.27.

Due to the smaller population, the proposed cost per person in Warren Township would be $29.71.

In this instance, the difference pre-and-post factors for the municipality would be $82,275.83. The difference in cost per person would be $89.14.

Heading East

In Philadelphia City, the Pennsylvania State Police station incurs an annual station cost of $24,585,447.00.

The population is 1,584,138.

The median income is $50,434.

Since Philadelphia City is the only borough in Philadelphia County, it absorbs all the cost of the State Police station.

The cost per person (pre-factors) is $15.52.

The township’s full/part time police department factor is .25.

The borough falls squarely into Tier 2.

The cost for the municipality (post-factors) would be $1,536,590.44 or $.97 per person (post-factors).

The difference pre-and-post factors would be $23,048,856.56.

Where the fair service fee does not cover the total cost of operation for the State Police station, existing or other state funds would step in and cover the remainder of the cost, Wolf spokesperson JJ Abbott told the Capital-Star. 

Southcentral

Steelton borough residents in Dauphin County. It has a population of 5,949 people with a median income of $49,800.

It relies on the Harrisburg State Police station for coverage, which incurs $18,347,826.00 annually in station costs.

Steelton borough absorbs $439,250.92 of the Harrisburg station’s costs.

Pre-factors, that’s $73.84 per person.

The borough’s full/part time police department factor is .25.

The factors place Steelton in Tier 1, or 10%.

The cost for the borough (post-factors) would be $10,981.27 or $1.85 per person.

That’s a difference of $428,269.65 for the borough and $71.99 per person!

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.