THE NEW BEGINNING
The Portage Government Study Commission was elected into existence in November 1992 from a general dissatisfaction by Portage Borough voters with the operation of the existing form of government. Initial concerns expressed by the voters focused on the Borough’s inability to identify problems and effect workable solutions.
The Borough Code of the State of Pennsylvania mandates how the Borough government will be structured and operated. The law specifically dictates that all administrative, legislative and general policy-making functions of the Borough of Portage be vested solely in the elected Council.
Act 62, the Pennsylvania Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law states: “It shall be the function and duty of the Government Study Commission to study the form of government of the municipality, to compare it with other available forms under the laws of this State, to determine whether or not on its judgment of the government of the municipality could be strengthened, made more clearly responsible or accountable to the people, or whether its operation could become more economical or efficient under a changed from of government.”
The Findings of the Commission
The Study Commission studied many issues involving the local government for fifteen months. The Commission spoke with State and local officials, borough managers, the Pennsylvania Economy League, the Home Rule Advocacy Network, borough employees, and the residents. The Commission found most forms of municipal governments were developed when operations of local government was simple. Today, modern government has become a highly technical and complex business. Local government operations face increasing demands from the public and from state and federal mandates. The efficient operation of the borough requires professional attention daily. It is unreasonable to expect that part-time elected officials can do this job.
The Commission believed that the Council-Manager Plan under the Home Rule Charter Optional Form of Government best served Portage Borough because it provides a workable allocation of governmental responsibilities, a truer system of checks and balances, a separation of personalities and administration, and – the critical factor—professional management. Following the close examination of the current form of government, the Commission found a number of structural deficiencies:
Lack of Central Authority No Long-Range Planning
Lack of Checks and Balances Reliance on Outside Help
· The form of government in the Borough of Portage be changed to a Council-Manager Option plan provided in Article VIII of the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law (Act 62).
· Council will consist of a Mayor, elected at large, and six council representatives, elected by ward.
· The number of ward will be changed to three and that representation will be equal in each ward.
· The Home Rule Charter be submitted to the voters at the primary election held on Tuesday, May 11, 1994. The new form of government would then become effective on the first Monday of January 1996.
The Advantages of a Council-Manager Form of Government
The Commission provided the following advantages:
Taxpayer Savings Professionalism in managing borough affairs
Vision Leadership and Accountability
Broad Representation Creditability
The Home Rule Charter was adopted by the voters of Portage on May 11, 1994.