PA Boroughs Move to Reduce Council Seats

By Whitney Roper, Contributing Writer

As a result of dwindling populations and unavailable numbers of candidates, countless boroughs across Pennsylvania are asking themselves if a reduction in council seats is the right move for them.

According to Shelly Houk, research specialist for PA State Association of Boroughs, serving on council is a time consuming position. Combine that with PA’s aging population and individual’s busy schedules, and it can be very hard to find able bodied and minded candidates that want to serve.

In order for a borough in Pennsylvania to reduce the number of council seats, the state requires that the population of said borough be under 3,000 and five percent of registered voters must sign a petition for the reduction.

Of the 958 boroughs in Pennslyvania, 600 have a population of less than 3,000. Many officials and borough citizens believe that lowering the number of their borough’s council seats in proportion with population can help make government more tightly regulated and efficient. Some, however, see the reduction as creating an unfair balance of power in council seats.

Councilman Patrick McAndrew of Laflin voted against a reduction in council seats citing the possibility that it would take fewer people to control a majority and thus control the borough. For example, if a borough cuts their numbers from seven to five, three council members can hold a majority as opposed to four.

The idea is nothing new to Pennsylvania, but it is something that seems to be popping up more frequently:

From seven to five: that’s how many seats Dupont has reduced their council, an effort kick started in 2001 and completed in 2005.

In 2009, Johnstown in Cambria County brought reducing the number of council seats to the ballot box. As a result, they dropped from nine to seven seats, making competition even more fierce with two available seats instead of four in this year’s primary.  In addition to the reduction being a means for more efficient government, it also saves Johnstown City over $4,000 annually.

Candidates have from February 15th to March 8th to petition for voter signatures. Those running for council seats must obtain 100 signatures.

Laughlin, Dupont, Shickshinny, and Yatesville, all in Luzerne County have also seen number reductions in their borough councils.

Shickshinny went from eight to five. The reduction was made in increments, one seat at a time. One reason Shickshinny did it was the fact that no one ran for one of the seats and that councilman Kevin Morris won it through a write-in vote.

Now Luzerne County is seeing yet another borough make the same move. On February 14th, Dallas Borough received permission from the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas to reduce the number of council seats from seven to five.

Dallas opted to petition for the reduction in hopes for better and more efficient government. Cutting the council seats by two would save Dallas $1,200. Solicitor Jeffrey Malak announced that the reduction, like in other boroughs, will be made incrementally with each election.

March 1st, 2011 | Posted in Front Page Stories | 2 Comments

2 thoughts on “PA Boroughs Move to Reduce Council Seats”

  1. Petrolia Pete says:

    This is a tough problem with good arguments, but unfortunately it is a symptom of a larger disease.
    We need to be asking “why are people leaving?” and “What can we do to bring them back.”
    If Pennsylvania doesn’t follow the lead offered by other states recently we will have much bigger problems to worry about.

    State government needs to reign in regulatory and economic barriers to job creation- read that: reduce the inpact of the DEP and other regulatory bodies, lower legacy costs so taxes can be lowered, reduced the burden of government, work to reduce the negative impact unions have on prospective and existing employers, etc, etc, etc.

    Getting on this train sooner, rather than later, will only benefit us all.

  2. duane ashley says:

    This is a long overdue concept. I would offer that the City of Pittsburgh is prime for such consideration given the population loss and the inefficient manner of overall representation of its residents.

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