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Proposed budget kicks off regional funding debate

Plus: Shapiro wins Pa. governor race and Penn State Proud Boys protest fallout

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This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

November 10, 2022
Inside this edition: Election results, racial justice rally, Centre Region Council of Governments growing pains, and Proud Boys protest fallout.
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'Growing Pains'

Centre Region municipal managers issued a rare rebuke in reaction to a proposed plan to up the amount of funding their local governments contribute to a longstanding regional government organization.

The Centre Region Council of Governments is governed by the elected officials from six municipalities — College, Ferguson, Halfmoon, Harris, and Patton townships and State College borough — who work together to provide shared services to their residents. 

Organizations funded by the COG include the Schlow Centre Region Library, Centre Region Parks and Recreation, and Alpha Fire Company, among others.

But the 2023 Centre Region Council of Governments operating budget released in mid-September proposed “significant” increases to municipalities’ contributions, the Centre Region’s five municipal managers wrote in a Sept. 26 memo. 

The memo, sent “in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration,” to the COG Finance Committee detailed their concerns with the proposed budget and the overall budgeting process.

The municipalities’ total contributions haven’t increased more than 5% in the past five years, according to the memo. But the proposed budget called for a 16.86% total increase in funding provided by the municipalities.

Set formulas determine how much each municipality pays for specific services. 

“These increases are proposed at a time when we are grappling with double-digit inflation, escalating oil prices, and supply chain issues that are driving up our costs and straining our own budgets. We are also still in the throes of recovering from a pandemic that saw a significant loss of revenue for all of us,” the managers wrote in the memo.

Under that proposed budget, College, Ferguson, Harris, and Patton townships, and State College borough, the managers noted, would have to raise taxes to cover their increased COG share, and that was before factoring in the needs of their own municipal budgets.

Richard Francke, COG Finance Committee chair and College Township Council chair, told Spotlight PA that the managers’ memo was “unprecedented.”

“That's a consensus opinion of the Centre Region managers; that doesn't happen a lot,” he said. “I personally appreciated that they came forward that way.”

Based on the managers’ concerns, the COG staff reworked the budget to call for a total increase in municipal support of 6.78%. They had been given a target of no more than 8% by the finance committee, which State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine told Spotlight PA would be a more manageable lift.

Going forward, the managers hope to see the COG move to a revenue-driven model, prioritize funding public safety needs — like preparing for a fire service with more paid employees as volunteerism declines statewide — and shift its budget process earlier in the year so that there’s more time between when the COG budget is finalized and when the municipalities pass their own budgets.

“We’re having some growing pains right now,” Amy Farkas, Harris Township manager, told Spotlight PA.

Sarah Rafacz, State College Editor

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📝 More From Spotlight PA
» Democrat Josh Shapiro will be Pennsylvania's next governor. It promises to be his biggest challenge yet.

» Democrats believe they will take control of the Pennsylvania House for the first time in more than a decade

» Rare disciplinary case against Pa. doctor offers glimpse into big business of medical marijuana cards

» A judge did not change Pennsylvania's ballot deadline for the 2022 election

» Wolf signs hastily passed $2 billion tax package that encourages natural gas production in Pa.
📷 Local Gem
Spotlight PA Investigations Editor Sarah Hutchins snapped this photo of the Nittany Lion Shrine during a visit to State College and Penn State last week. Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
The Nittany Lion Shrine at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania.
📰 In Other News
» More than 100 rally in wake of Penn State's decision to cancel Center for Racial Justice (Centre Daily Times)

» 'We're going to Harrisburg.' Paul Takac aims to be bipartisan leader as new state rep. (Centre Daily Times)

» Over 50% of Centre County cast a ballot in the midterm election. Here's how they voted (Centre Daily Times)

» Council strikes down zoning request by coalition (The Express)

» Crews fight 'major forest fire' in Elk County (WTAJ)

» Community members voice frustration at forum on police response to Penn State protest (Centre Daily Times)

» Penn State's 'hands are tied' due to 1st Amendment precedent to allow controversial speakers, Gavin McInnes on campus (The Daily Collegian)
📅 Events
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Nov. 10: The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presents Kings Return at Recital Hall.

» Nov. 11: Penn State hosts its Veterans Day Ceremony on Old Main Lawn.

» Nov. 12: Don't miss Santa paragliding at Beech Creek's annual Santa Jump Jamboree.

» Nov. 13: Discovery Space has free activities and admission for Grandparents Day.

» Nov. 15: Enjoy a community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Kane Area Community Center.
Support Spotlight PA's local reporting in State College and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
🧩 The Puzzler
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, "spotlight" also forms "stoplight."

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

Good luck!

Last week's answer: Height

Congrats to Thomas S., who will receive Spotlight PA State College swag. Others who answered correctly: Donna D., Tish M., Gordon F., Warren D., and Linda A.
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
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