Lincoln Institute releases results of PA Boroughs survey

Columnist : Lincoln Institute

Pennsylvania’s Boroughs: 
Aging Infrastructure and Low Commercial Tax Base
Dominant Problems in the State’s Small towns
Trend Toward local Tax Reform Remains Strong

     {Harrisburg – 08 October 2001} The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, in cooperation with The Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs and the Commonwealth Foundation has completed phase two of it’s Valley Forge Project, a survey of Pennsylvania’s small town officials.  Last year the Institute conducted a survey of township officials with the state’s county commissioners scheduled for phase three next year.
“The concept,” according to The Lincoln Institute’s managing director Albert Paschall, “is to survey governments on the grass roots level and attempt to draw trends and contrasts as they react to larger government institutions and various mandated regulations and economic trends.”
There are 966 boroughs incorporated in the state.  Historically a preponderance of them grew out of access to rivers during the Colonial era and later railways with the rise of American industry.  Many feature the incorporated designs of density housing near work sites and transportation with well-defined commercial districts often along waterways.  In some cases, like Conshohocken in Montgomery County and Coatesville in Chester County, these towns are experiencing an extraordinary re-development trend, in part as a response to anti-development sentiment in surrounding townships.  But for the most part the state’s small towns face a number of dilemmas that are reflected in the survey’s outcomes.
According to the 1999 Pennsylvania manual the present type of borough government is the weak mayor form which governed all incorporated municipalities in the 19th century.  Most of Pennsylvania’s present cities were boroughs first and became cities as their populations increased.  Boroughs have a strong and dominant council, a weak executive and other elected officers with power independent of the council.  In more than two hundred boroughs in Pennsylvania the chief administrative officer is a manager appointed by the council.
Of the survey respondents 94% represented towns with a population of less than 10,000 people and 45% had budgets