Local responders in Altoona could soon be out of a job. City leaders are reducing staff hoping to combat a budget crisis. Marshall Keely breaks down what positions could be impacted and has reaction from a local union.
Altoona is dealing with a one million dollar deficit. City officials say Altoona’s tax revenues are down because so many residents have been out of work due to COVID-19, meaning less money for the city. Understanding these are tough times, city manager Ken Decker says the mayor and city council asked him to draft a 2021 budget that would not raise taxes. That meant decker needed to make cuts. He introduced his proposal at last night’s city council meeting for consideration. Decker says the plan would eliminate 15 positions.
Of those impacted, four police officers and two firefighters are expected to retire and the city will not be back filling their spots. The other nine positions are divided between public works, community development and administrative support. But some first responders are concerned.
Patrick Miller from the local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters says safety is the union’s top priority and adequate staffing is needed to maintain that safety. He says apparatus are already operating with fewer first responders than necessary, putting the public and firefighters at a greater risk. He says he looks forward to working with the city towards a solution. Decker says the city has been forced to eliminate staff as the population declines. “Since 2003 we’ve shed about 48 full time positions. So while the city has shrunk, so have we as a city government. What it does is the people left behind have to work that much harder.”