Altoona from 4-1-12 to 9-13-17; Chester on 4-06-1995; Harrisburg 10-20-10 to 9-18; Reading on 10-4-09; and Scranton from 1-10-1992 to 11-22-02.
A list of Pennsylvania town’s growing the fastest? Those cities with the most popular tourist sites? Homes to the best roller coasters in America?
Hardly. The towns are among about 17 statewide on Pennsylvania’s financially distressed municipalities list, often called Act 47.
Next on the list? Warminster Township. Maybe next year.
Warminster’s current $2.3 million deficit, along with other fiscal troubles, has officials assessing what to do. And if the picture doesn’t clear, an Act 47 designation might be next. It’s the state program that takes financial control, including the possibility of liquidating a town’s assets.
The state Department of Community and Economic Development provides loan and grant funds to financially distressed local governments, as well as technical assistance to formulate recovery plans. Some 14 municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, once were on the Act 47 list but were removed when their five-year deadline expired, and now some 17 are there.
Warminster officials recently said an asset valuation by a financial advisory company currently is underway, and there will be an examination of water, sewer and stormwater operations to determine if an alteration in management might aid the financial situation.
The Bucks County community is up against it financially, and Township Manager Gregg Schuster has warned Warminster soon will run out of cash. The state program allows a distressed community to tax in different and powerful ways not available to others. And it works. Harrisburg got off the Act 47 list last year after raising an extra $11 million through higher rates on commuters and an earned income tax on residents.
With it special powers, Act 47 can save the day for a distressed town like Warminster. But be cautious, officials, because once in the program, it will be difficult to give up your new money muscles.
Fix your mess before any state action.