Editor's note: In advance of the city's Act 47 recovery plan recommendation, the Mirror examined the city union contracts with workers.
Today: Introduction and firefighter contract
Monday: Police contract
Tuesday: Non-uniformed worker contract
Thursday: City manager contract, memorandum of understanding with supervisors
Friday: Salary chart
The financial recovery plan the city expects to receive from its Act 47 consultant Nov. 13 will probably call for enhanced revenues in the form of higher earned income tax or property tax - or both.
The plan will probably also call for cost cuts.
Because 83 percent of the city's costs are related to personnel, the cost cut recommendations will almost certainly focus on personnel.
So it makes sense to look at those areas, as laid out in the city's four union contracts, which run until the end of 2013, and other employee agreements - plus the city's salary chart.
All of it is public information, and all employees whose wages are determined by those contracts or represented on that chart are public employees.
City Council members will soon examine the Act 47 recovery plan to approve or reject it. If they reject it, they need to come up with their own.
Their choice may depend in part on what those taxpayers say at a Nov. 28 public hearing on the plan.
There are three main labor contracts - for firefighters, represented by the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association; police, represented by the Fraternal Order of Police; and non-uniformed workers, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
In addition, there is a contract with the city manager and another with the crossing guards, half of whose wages come from the city and half from the Altoona Area School District.
City Council approved them all.
There is also a memorandum of understanding - not a binding contract - with the six first-line supervisors, represented by AFSCME.
Those first-line supervisors - as well as directors, managers who don't work under a labor agreement and executive secretaries - have traditionally gotten annual raises equal to those in the contract of the non-uniformed workers.
The city can't afford to pay longevity costs, which for this year amount to $365,000 - $159,000 for firefighters, $156,000 for police and the rest for the non-uniformed union workers and non-union employees, according to Councilman Dave Butterbaugh.
Butterbaugh recently prevailed on his colleagues to order the posting of labor contracts on the city website, so everyone had the opportunity to see where the taxpayer dollars are going.
There's also a problem with employees - especially in the police and fire departments - getting certifications that lead to pay increases while they remain in their previous jobs, because the jobs they get certified for aren't open, Butterbaugh said.
The police and fire pension funds are also severely underfunded, he said.
The Public Works Department has borne the brunt of cuts in the losing attempt to make ends meet, he said.
The pay and benefits are "fair for people who routinely place themselves in danger for the sake of public safety," said Bryson Peterman, president of the city firefighters union, in reference to its contract.
The firefighters are "proud public servants, taxpayers and members of our community," Peterman said.
In addition to fighting fires and rescuing those caught in them, firefighters respond to crashes and medical emergencies; staff the county hazmat team; pre-plan for fires in large buildings; train to keep up required certifications; teach fire prevention classes in schools; conduct a program to discourage troubled juveniles from starting fires; clean and provide basic maintenance for the stations and equipment and for City Council Chambers; and raise and lower the Gospel Hill flag when needed, according to Peterman.
Firefighters have installed kitchens at two stations and built a pavilion at Prospect Pool, he said.
As for the non-uniformed workers, "the numbers speak for themselves," said Scott Campanaro, president of the non-uniformed workers union local.
The workers of his union are close to being self-supporting, when you consider the fees the city collects for the services they perform, like street cuts and inspections, he said.
"I feel very comfortable with that," he said.
The non-uniformed workers have endured a 17 percent reduction in numbers over the past six years, as management has cut costs, and many of those workers say it's hard to do the kind of job they want to do - like getting the streets plowed in a reasonable time, Campanaro said.
It wouldn't make sense for the Act 47 consultant to recommend further cuts in self-supporting areas, he said, comparing the city to a struggling business.
The contract his workers labor under is "fair" and provides "good service to the city at reasonable cost," he said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.