GREENVILLE — Greenville has adopted a new constitution for local government.
On Tuesday, voters approved the home rule charter, essentially allowing Greenville to govern itself, except what’s prohibited by state law, according to Paul J. Miller, Home Rule Commission chairman.
“It gives the voters, the citizens, a lot more direct input into the local government,” Miller said of the charter. “We thought about this long and hard.”
The charter was approved 471 to 408.
Initially designed to help Greenville escape Act 47, the state’s program for financially-distressed communities, the commission was the “impetus” of borough council members, Miller said.
In May 2018, Greenville residents elected seven members to the Home Rule Commission to give borough council more freedom, Miller said.
Newly elected and re-elected council members will now be required to undergo eight hours of training, and five council members will now be needed to levy any taxation or pass a budget, Miller said.
Under the state’s current borough code, Greenville can only tax earned income up to 1 percent, with half of that going to Greenville Area School District, Miller said.
Under home rule, Greenville borough council could raise earned income tax on residents up to a maximum of 2.5 percent with no more than a 0.5 percent increase per year, Miller said.
If borough council decides to go to the maximum in the first year, it would double what the borough has taken in in earned income tax, Miller said. As of a result of the new charter, the borough’s share will go from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, he said.
If the borough raises it, it will take in an additional $250,000 more than it had the previous year in earned income tax. In three years time, the borough could take in up to $750,000 more than it would without a home rule charter, Miller said.
For general purposes, the borough code currently allows the borough to tax real estate at a maximum of 30 mills.
Going forward, the home rule charter sets that as a maximum cap.
Greenville’s current property tax rate is 24.5 mills for the general fund, 3 mills for the fire department and 8.58 mills in debt service for a West Salem Township athletic facility, Miller said.
The home rule charter will allow borough council to create a development authority, essentially allowing the purchase of blighted properties, demolishing them and repurposing them for another use, Miller said.
In addition, initiative and referendum will be available for the citizens of Greenville, Miller said. This will allow citizens to propose ordinances for the town that borough council may not want to consider. After a certain number of required signatures, the potential ordinance would go on the ballot at the next election, he said.
“If it passed, then it’s an ordinance, just the same way if borough council passed it,” Miller said. “Referendum is the flip-side of that coin.”
The only exceptions to referendum are zoning, finance and personnel, Miller said.
Finally, the charter will change the official title of Greenville from borough to town, Miller said.
“We felt that town was a friendlier designation,” Miller said. “It was more communal.”
Greenville will now be one of only two chartered towns in Pennsylvania, with the other being Bloomsburg in Columbia County.
Beginning in January 2022, the mayor of Greenville will be a voting member of council and will preside over meetings instead of the current borough council president, Miller said.
“We, the commission, feel that we’ve given incoming council more tools that they can use to help move Greenville forward and go from there,” Miller said. “I’m happy for my commission members. They put in a lot of time and a lot of effort.”
In addition to Miller, Stephen Williams, Martha Johnson, Paul Hamill, Hal Johnson, Casey Shilling and Steve Thompson comprised the commission.