Act 47 changes likely

Changes are likely coming to the Act 47 distress recovery law.

“A major change that we hope will happen would be a five-year limit on a community staying in Act 47. This was never intended for communities to stay in it for decades. We are stressing an early intervention program to help them to get in and out,” Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, told members of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club Thursday at The Casino at Lakemont Park.

Eichelberger, who co-chairs a task force studying reforms to Act 47, which Altoona joined last year, said some municipalities might be dissolved.

“We will have a couple of municipalities – not Altoona – that are not viable any more. They will be disincorporated, and DCED will work with them and try to merge them with another community,” Eichelberger said.

Eichelberger discussed several topics during a annual question and answer.

He said the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone Program, which was created by Act 52 of 2013, may be helpful to Altoona.

The focus of the program is to provide opportunity to spur new growth, helping to revive downtowns and create jobs by developing vacant, desolate, underutilized or abandoned space, according to the DCED website.

“I am hopeful this will be a revitalization plan for the City of Altoona. We are very excited about the program. It could be a major change for the city of Altoona and the region,” Eichelberger said.

The topic of reassessment again came up at the breakfast.

The Legislature is working on a revolving loan fund that would help counties with reassessment.

Blair County Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said he was not aware of that possibility.

“We are getting closer to it, no question it is a real issue facing the county. Our finance director said we will need to do it within three to five years unless we get some relief from the state in some form or another,” Tomassetti said. “We are the only county in the state who has not reassessed. At some point it catches up.”

Eichelberger said the business climate in the state has improved under Gov. Tom Corbett.

“It was one of the worst in the country under Ed Rendell. We have done two things to help: We have eliminated the inheritance tax for farming and the inheritance tax for small businesses,” Eichelberger said.

Eichelberger said state government is trying to help municipalities share services.

“We have a program at DCED with $35 to $37 million available to help provide money in grants to municipalities that want to share services. It is a big program. The state has stepped up, and people are not aware of it,” Eichelberger said. “The problem is a lot of municipalities find it difficult to work together and don’t want to work together. We are working to try to make it as easy as possible.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.