City tax base eroding

After much thought about recent actions by City Council, I have come to believe that Act 47 is not the answer to Altoona’s problems.

It is only a tool used to fleece the pockets of hard-working citizens. It allows the so-called city leaders to legally raise taxes above the legal limits and then change the form of government to keep them at the higher limit.

Altoona’s financial problems didn’t happen overnight and can now only be solved by real sacrifice.

It began back in the late 1960s when an authority as deadly as cancer was introduced to the city.


Over the next decade, a lot of the city’s commercial, industrial and residential taxable ground and buildings were torn down. The ground was then converted to use by high-rise housing, parking and water authority which probably pay little or no property taxes.

Other ground was eaten up by Chestnut Avenue, Tenth Ave. Expressway, 17th Street highway and Seventh and Eighth Street bridges, which pay no taxes at all.

Then, in a effort to beautify these improvements in transportation, large grassy areas along roads, parks at bridge ends, pedestrian malls in downtown and the crossover with elevators and glass windows were added, which again bring in no taxes but cost a lot of tax money to maintain.

Even the Shade Tree Commission planting trees along city streets looks nice but cost tax dollars to keep them trimmed and looking nice.

Then look at the Altoona and Mercy Hospitals and Altoona Regional Medical centers and the amount of taxable ground and buildings they have swallowed up in recent years. Yes, they donate to the tax fund, but I doubt it is the same amount that the area once produced in property tax.

And what about the Altoona School District, and all the ground they have taken over in the past few years, ground that used to produce taxes?

I also wonder what tax breaks Penn State Altoona has been given to move classes downtown and to the Railroader’s Museum building.

Compare a map of taxable ground and buildings in Altoona from 1960 to one today and you will see why Altoona is hurting. A very large portion of its taxable ground has been given away -?especially the industrial and commercial ground, which could have been used to attract businesses which would have paid higher taxes and provided good-paying jobs for the area.

And all the while the tax base has been given away, council and unions have worked out labor contracts that now command 83 percent of the annual budget.

The city of Altoona has become a welfare system.

The 17 percent of the budget that is left doesn’t seem like enough to purchase supplies and equipment for those employed to use to get any work done.

Raising taxes through Act 47 isn’t the answer. The answer is for council to man up, make cuts and live within the income it now receives, since it cannot take back all the ground it has given away over the years.

After all, that is the way the average working man lives – within his budget – doing without some things, and he is tired of higher taxes always being the reason.

Leonard Alwine