Reporter's Guide to Pennsylvania Local Government

what you really need to know when they send you to a meeting


with 3 comments

Authorities are public corporations set up to finance, or finance and run, individual public projects.

The members of authority boards are appointed by elected officials but, once appointed, operate independently of elected officials and voters.

Authorities can borrow money, generally by issuing bonds. They can own property; acquire, construct, improve, maintain and operate projects; and raise money by charging user fees and rent on their facilities.

Typical projects are revenue-producing public facilities such as buildings, transportation facilities, marketing and shopping facilities, highways, parkways, airports, parking facilities, water works, sewage systems and treatment plants, playgrounds, hospitals and industrial development projects.

Any county, city, borough, township or school district can establish an authority by passing an ordinance.


Authorities may be simply financing authorities, or they may be financing and operating authorities.

A financing authority obtains funds – often through a bond issue — then disburses the funds for engineering, legal fees and construction, and for making scheduled principal and interest payments on the debt. A financing authority generally leases the completed project facilities back to the municipality for operation.

An operating authority also hires the labor and provides materials and equipment to operate the project after completion, and carries out the day to day operation. The employees work for the authority.


Authority boards must have at least five members. On intermunicipal authorities, board members are appointed from each of the member municipalites.

Meetings of authority boards typically include board members, their solicitor (attorney), and support staff such as a secretary or manager if they have one.

Meetings of financing authorities could also include the treasurer, business manager or other interested parties from the incorporating municipality. Typical issues could be new or existing bond issues and general spending and debt.

Meetings of operating authorities could also include engineers and employees in charge of running the authority project. Typical issues could be construction, operating budgets, expenses, revenues and user fees, employees and labor relations.


Two or more municipalities together may form an intermunicipal authority or joint authority to finance, or finance and run, regional projects.

Board members serve five-year terms and may succeed themselves.

The municipality or school board that sets up an authority can require audits of authority accounts and can fix salaries of the authority board members, if they are paid.


An authority may transfer its project to its incorporating municipality and be disbanded at any time after all debts have been paid. Every authority terminates after 50 years, unless its lifespan has been extended by amending its articles of incorporation.

Even before the debt is paid off, the incorporating municipality may assume the project by passing an ordinance and assuming any outstanding obligations.

For more information, consult Municipal Authorities in Pennsylvania.


Written by pareporter

May 4, 2010 at 8:28 pm

3 Responses

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  1. “Authorities | Reporter’s Guide to Pennsylvania Local Government” was a fantastic post and thus I personally was truly joyful to discover the blog. Regards,Devon


    July 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

  2. “Authorities | Reporter’s Guide to Pennsylvania Local Government” was in fact a great post and therefore I ended up being quite joyful to read it. Thanks for the post-Mattie


    July 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm

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