Event to mark end of Act 47 for city

State official to sign administrative order releasing Altoona from distress program

The timing is ironic.

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Economy League released a report titled “Communities in Crisis: the truth and consequences of municipal fiscal distress in Pennsylvania,” which speaks of “fiscal decay” (especially in cities), the state’s “broken local government system,” increases in the tax burden, erosion of the tax base and a “disturbing drift (that) threatens the ability of all types of municipalities to provide even basic services.”

Yet today, in downtown Altoona, the secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, Dennis Davin, will sign a “rescission” document formally releasing Altoona from Act 47, the state’s distressed municipalities program.

Five years ago, those terms of systemic dysfunction applied to Altoona.

They don’t any longer, according to the Economy League itself, which is a major partner of the city’s Act 47 coordinator team — whose recommendation for leaving the program is the basis for Davin’s appearance here today.

In escaping the distress program in less than five years, Altoona will be the fastest city ever to exit, said DCED spokesman David Smith on Tuesday.

It will also be the largest municipality ever to get out, he said.

“Fabulous for Altoona,” Smith said.

Despite the reluctance of city officials to enter the program five years ago — City Council fought for years to stave off insolvency with various fiscal maneuvers — inclusion has stabilized finances, with major help from a move to home rule, the county’s long-delayed reassessment and a takeover of the water systems to guarantee an annual cash infusion from operations under the Altoona Water Authority.

Among the main program tools the city took advantage of were elimination of the cap on the earned income tax, the addition of EIT on non-resident workers and a three-year employee wage freeze.

The non-resident EIT will go away when the city leaves Act 47 — though not immediately, as the court order that imposed it lasts until the end of this year, according to City Manager Marla Marcinko.

“This is a momentous day for the city,” said Mayor Matt Pacifico.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

If you go

What: Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin signs an administrative order authorizing Altoona’s exit from the Act 47 distressed municipalities program.

Where: Devorris Downtown Center, 1431 12th Ave.

When: 5 p.m. today