Home Rule charter finalizes suggestion on city government

It looks as though voters will have a choice Nov. 6 to select a Home Rule charter for Williamsport.

The Williamsport Government Study Commission Tuesday made final changes and produced a final charter.

It recommends a City Council-manager form of government, one that provides for an elected mayor who works full-time on economic development issues.

The commission’s seven members believe they have produced a document that provides for flexibility and accountability in local government, according to Jennifer Ayers, commission chairwoman.

State Home Rule philosophy is used as its guideline.

The preamble of the charter indicates that home rule offers a more flexible and efficient form of government.

It allows for local government cooperation, builds procedures to ensure a government that is responsive, reflects the uniqueness of the circumstances of the city’s economy, and looks at other factors.

Seven members of council, including the mayor, would be elected at large for four-year terms. The terms are staggered every two years.

Among the big changes is a new Department of Finance with a director to oversee department operations. The director is nominated by the manager, and appointed by council. He or she will oversee tax collection and receipt of all taxes levied by the city. The responsibility is to ensure that no money is paid out of the city treasury unless previously appropriated by council.

The director of finance can choose to hire a treasurer or controller, or individuals who are qualified who can do these jobs, according to the charter.

Council will need to order an outside audit at least once a year.

The manager will submit annual budget and five-year capital report.

Home rule allows for plenty of input from taxpayers.

Citizens can bring ideas for ordinances forward and the charter also eliminates much of what is perceived to be cronyism in local government, said Alison D. Hirsch, commission official.

A second choice for voters will be a recommendation by the Williamsport Charter Commission, which recommends a similar form but without use of Home Rule law.

The charter commission was limited in its work to looking at optional third-class city law.