GREENVILLE — A new constitution for local government will be adopted in the borough of Greenville if voters approve it on election day.
After more than a year of study, the Greenville Home Rule Commission’s proposed charter has been completed by seven borough residents elected during the primaries last year. Chairman Paul J. Miller said the commission was the brain-child of borough council and was formed to help Greenville get out of Act 47, the state’s program for financially distressed communities.
In addition to Miller, Stephen Williams, Martha Johnson, Paul Hamill, Hal Johnson, Casey Shilling and Steve Thompson comprise the commission.
“We started to create our own vision of what could happen in the future,” Miller said of the commission.
Under the current system, Greenville borough officials must operate under the state’s borough code. Under the proposed Home Rule Charter, Greenville could essentially govern itself, except what’s prohibited by state law, according to Miller.
“It gives borough council a lot more freedom,” Miller said.
Currently, four out of seven borough council members are needed to levy any taxation, Miller said. If the Home Rule Charter passes on election day, that number will rise to five council members instead of four.
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, said Miller.
Under the charter, 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.
“In effect, if it passed and borough and council decide to go to the maximum in the first year, it would double what the borough has taken in in earned income tax,” Miller said. “The borough’s share would go from .5 percent to 1 percent.”
Last year the borough’s share of earned income tax from residents came to slightly above $250,000, Miller said.
“If they bit the bullet and raised it, in the first year alone, they would take in an additional $250,000 more than they had the previous year,” Miller said. “In the second year, they would take in another $250,000 and the third year, they would take in $250,000, up to $750,000 more than they would without the Home Rule Charter.”
The projected five-year deficit for borough finances came to only $690,000, Miller said. With a 0.5 percent increase, in three years, the borough could cover $690,000 and still have money left over for other expenses.
For general purposes, borough code allows the borough to tax real estate at a maximum of 30 mills, Miller said.
“We’ve set that as a maximum cap,” Miller said. “They can’t go any higher than that.”
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 an athletic facility in West Salem Township.
In addition, the Home Rule Commission has given borough council the ability to create a development authority, Miller said. This would allow the purchase of blighted properties, demolishing them and repurposing them for another use. For that to happen, additional funding would be needed.
Lastly, the Home Rule Charter would change the official title of Greenville from borough to town. If that happens, Greenville would be one of only two chartered towns in Pennsylvania, with the other being Bloomsburg in Columbia County.
“(Town) sounds a lot friendlier, a lot more communal,” Miller said.
If the charter is approved, the current Greenville borough council format would change. Seven members would comprise town council – six of whom would be elected at large with the seventh member serving as mayor. Starting in January 2022, the mayor of the town would be a voting member of council and would preside over meetings instead of the borough council president presiding, Miller said.
On the ballot on election day, the Home Rule Charter vote will be a simple yes or no, according to Miller.
“If it fails, it can’t be brought back up again for five years,” Miller said. “That’s the state law. If it passes, the form of government cannot change for another five years. But other parts of it can be amended after a year.”
Email Heidi Warren at email@example.com.