Altoona city council holds public Act 47 hearing

Altoona, Blair COunty, Pa. - The city of Altoona is taking it's first step towards exiting Act 47, or distressed status. Altoona has been in Act 47 since May of 2012. 
 
According to Mayor Matt Pacifico, Altoona would be the fastest municipality in the state to exit the distressed city status under the new guidelines. 
 
But what does Act 47 even mean? 
A city can be placed under Act 47 if they meet criteria including:
 
- Not being able to pay their bills or having a budget deficit. 
 
- The state then looks for a consultant to work with the city, to come up with a plan to stabilize finances. 
 
- While designated, the city can increase fines and taxes in order to increase revenue and in some cases get additional help from the state. 
 
City council held a public hearing Wednesday night for comment on the financial report done by Financial Solutions. There was no public comment and the meeting adjourned quickly. There is a 10 day window for residents to submit their thoughts. 
 
The report concluded that Altoona is ready to exit Act 47 status .They say the key factors to the city's success include being designated as a Home Rule so that they could exceed their cap for raising property taxes and the Blair County reassessment. 
 
On the move to exit Act 47, Mayor Pacifico said, "We're looking to really just keep that momentum going forward and to continue to grow the city of Altoona and grow the business community."

 

After Financial Solutions submits their final report to the state, the state then has 30 days to hold another public hearing on the issue. 
 
For downtown businesses like Dickey's BBQ and Fox Hollow Boutique, they've seen noticeable growth downtown. 
 
Dickey's Manager Stephanie Trude said, "You could honestly spend a day here and never get bored just being downtown."

 

 
Fox Hollow Owner Jessica Henri explained, "From the first day that we opened to now, the foot traffic has just increased so much. You know, back in the day or just months ago, you could find a whole bunch of parking spots. It was kind of empty here. But now, you look down the street and a lot of the times it's filled up."
 
Henri started her boutique downtown only 3 months ago. She says it was the potential for growth downtown that inspired her to move in. She says the city's movement out of distressed status is boosting the morale of downtown business owners.
 
She said, "It kind of gives some of the businesses down here hope. Because it's kind of saying, you know, Altoona is coming back. With that, I think it's going to help keep us all driven to really kind of keep going and keep up with all of our businesses."
 
With the boost in morale, both Henri and Trude say that there is a sense of camaraderie between businesses. Trude says when customers look for recommendations or when she is in need for the restaurant, she goes straight to a neighboring business. She says it's a part of what is helping everyone thrive.
 
She detailed, "There's been a lot of different places that have come in here. We have had Hair Mafia send some of their clients in here. We have people in here with full heads of hair dye while they wait so, it's nice to kind of be convenient."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the only other municipality in our region under Act 47 is the city of Johnstown. Johnstown has operated as a distressed city since 1992. 


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