The City of Altoona, population just over 46,000, has been declared financially distressed by the state under the terms of Act 47 of 1987. It will be the 27th municipality placed in Act 47 status since the law was enacted; Altoona will join 20 others currently in. The City’s 2012 budget included a real estate tax increase.
Six municipalities have been released from financial distress, the most recent being Homestead in 2007. That municipality had been in Act 47 for fourteen years. The fastest entrance-to-exit time is for Ambridge, which spent three years in the program.
No doubt the hopes in Altoona are for a short stay. One councilman said that Altoona can be out in three to six years if "tough decisions" can be made. Two municipalities in neighboring Cambria County-Johnstown and Franklin-have been in for more than twenty years.
At a joint hearing of several committees of the General Assembly in October of 2011, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services testified "there is no limit to the amount of time a municipality can be in the Act 47 program, and the Commonwealth’s authority to address the factors of distress in a given municipality are the same in year ten of the program as in year one." A proposal in that testimony was to have a Fiscal Recovery Board appointed for a municipality that had been in Act 47 for five years