Contingency plans that include about 40 layoffs show just how dire Altoona's financial picture is becoming.
The city is awaiting word from the secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development as to whether it will be accepted into the state's Act 47 Distressed Municipalities Program.
It would be a surprise if Altoona's petition is rejected because the evidence indicates the city meets the criteria of a municipality in serious financial trouble.
If accepted into the distressed program, Altoona would be allowed to impose taxes higher than the state's caps and make other changes designed to keep the city financially afloat. Altoona currently is at the state's hard cap of 30 mills on property taxes.
Barring that, city officials say they will have to look at serious cuts, including laying off 10 police officers, eight firefighters and 10 public works employees. Those will have a direct impact on city residents.
The cuts in personnel might result in slower responses and investigations to non-emergency matters and delays in clearing the streets after snowfalls because there would be fewer people to handle such duties.
But even those layoffs won't be enough to keep the city's budget in the black next year.
Finance Director Omar Strohm said that Altoona's expenses in 2013 will be about $500,000 more than its revenue. And the city's reserve fund is expected to be emptied this year.
Like many people, we see the city's application for distressed status as a necessary evil. We would prefer it wasn't needed, but we can see no other viable option.
For that reason, we hope DCED will move quickly to approve Altoona's petition.