Erie Vital Signs

Regional Cooperation: Public Service

County and municipal government services are those that are “public” in nature. They generally cannot be provided cost-effectively through a private market economy and/or they have dimensions of regulation that are needed to assure community-wide cooperation and coordination. The intention is to create “public goods” and equal benefits for all.

County governments provide many services, some as an administrative arm of the Commonwealth, and other functions or services mandated or permitted by State law. Examples of county services include administration of the courts and judicial system, corrections, public health and safety, children and youth services, mental health and retardation, care of the indigent, libraries, emergency management, 9-1-1 call taking and dispatch, area-wide planning, and real estate valuation.

Municipal governments in Pennsylvania are autonomous from county governments and are the principal providers of direct public services to communities.

Municipal services often include, among others:

  • police and fire protection;
  • water treatment and distribution;
  • sewage collection and treatment;
  • stormwater management;
  • refuse collection and disposal;
  • street lighting;
  • construction and maintenance of roadways and bridges;
  • administration of parks and recreation facilities and programs;
  • administration and enforcement of building and inspection codes; and
  • planning and zoning, etc.

These services, and many others provided by municipal governments, are indispensable to the well-being of our Pennsylvania communities.

The Municipality Authorities Act, PA Act 164 of 1945 (as amended) governs the creation of municipal authorities. A municipal authority is a body corporate and politic, authorized to acquire, construct, finance, improve, maintain and operate projects, provide financing for insurance reserves, make loans, and to borrow money and issue bonds to finance them.

A municipal authority may be created by a single county, municipality or school district, or may be created as a joint authority by two or more governments.

Under Pennsylvania law, the municipal government(s) that create a municipal authority appoint the members of its board, however, the authority is not considered part of the municipal government which created it. An authority is an independent agency of the Commonwealth. It is a separate legal entity with power to incur debt, own property and finance its activities by means of user charges or lease rentals.

There are two general types of municipal authorities: financing and operating. A financing authority is used only for financing a particular project that is to be operated by the municipal government(s) that created it. Under this scenario, the authority sells bonds to finance the project and then leases the project to the municipality to operate.

An operating authority sells bonds to finance its project(s), operates the project(s) using its own personnel, and pays off its debt from the project revenues. In this case, the municipality has no role in operating or paying for the project.

Municipal authorities in Pennsylvania do not have the authority to levy general taxes, but they can and do charge customers for services. There are 60 Authorities in Erie County.

The following tables show the current provision of services by the municipalities in Erie County.

ServiceMethod of ProvisionIntergovernmental Arrangement
AirportsCity created municipal authority (Erie Airport Authority)no (there is presently consideration being made to include county appointments on the governing board)
Ambulance/RescueCity Dept. of Public Safety-Bureau of Fire for BLS and EmergyCare, Inc for ALS.yes (with non-profit EmergyCare)
Emergency Dispatch - AmbulanceErie County 9-1-1, City Dept. of Public Safety-Bureau of Fire and EmergyCare, Inc.yes (9-1-1 through Erie County)
Emergency Dispatch - FireErie County 9-1-1 and City Dept. of Public Safety-Bureau of Fireyes (9-1-1 through Erie County)
Emergency Dispatch - PoliceErie County 9-1-1 and City Dept. of Public Safety-Bureau of Policeyes (9-1-1 through Erie County)
Fire ProtectionCity Dept. of Public Safety-Bureau of Fireyes (for mutual aid response)
Planning & Zoning and Building & Inspection CodesCity Dept. of Economic and Community Development - Bureau of Planning and Bureau of Code Enforcementno (cooperation with Erie County Department of Planning)
Police ProtectionCity Dept. of Public Safety-Bureau of Policeno (some mutual aid)
Recreation and ParksCity Dept. of Public Works, Property and Parks-Bureau of Parks and Recreationno
Residential Refuse Collection and DisposalCity Dept. of Public Works, Property and Parks-Bureau of Refuse and Recyclingno (some cooperation through Erie County Department of Planning)
Sewage Collection and TreatmentCity Collection system and Treatment Plant: City Dept. of Public Works, Property and Parks-Bureau of Sewer and Financing Sewer Authorityyes (with municipal authority and neighboring municipalities)
Storm Water Management ProjectsCity Dept. of Public Works, Property and Parks-Bureau of Streetsno (some cooperation with Erie County Department of Planning)
Street LightingCity Dept. of Public Works, Property and Parks-Bureau of Streetsno
Street and Road Building, Maintenance, Repair & Snow RemovalCity Dept. of Public Works, Property and Parks-Bureau of Streetsno (limited cooperation for joint purchasing through the Erie Area COG)
Water Treatment and DistributionErie City Water Authority (operating authority) (City owned asset)yes (with municipal authority and neighboring municipalities)

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