Township Officials In Pennsylvania Favor Local Tax Reform and Local Control of Zoning

Columnist : Lincoln Institute

New Survey by Lincoln Institute concentrates on local government issues

     (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 27, April 2000) – Elected township officials in Pennsylvania are largely veterans of years of service, earn little at the job and are overwhelmingly in favor of local tax reform and local control of land use and zoning.  These findings are among the highlights of a new Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research survey released today.  The “2000 Township Officials Survey” was mailed in March to more than 5,000 elected township officials in the state and more than 1,000 responded to the inquiry.  The survey was conducted in cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Association of Townships (PSATS).

“With so much emphasis in Harrisburg on potentially changing the responsibilities of local governments, we wanted to find out what the people who actually run these governments were thinking, “ said Albert Paschall, managing director of the Lincoln Institute and the survey architect, “and they responded in huge numbers.”

Of the elected township officials responding 64% earn less than $2,500 a year for their service yet 48% of them have served more than 8 years.  “This characteristic shows a dedication to local government that is unmatched anywhere else except in local school boards,” Paschall said, “when nearly 2/3 of these people are working for a little better than $200 a month you have virtually volunteer government which really harkens back to the American tradition of town meetings.”

Budgets and Taxes

74% of the respondents have general fund budgets of less than $1 million a year and during their terms in office 70% held the line with no increase in residential taxes and 81% had no increase in business taxes.  A full 64%, trending right across the state, want options other than the property tax to fund their governments and if they had the option the same 64% would turn to, or raise, earned income taxes as an alternative to property taxes.  “The trend toward property tax relief is very clear,”