Altoona's Act 47 coordinator on Monday submitted a revised fiscal recovery plan, complying with many of the change requests made by city officials and others.
The revised plan appears to be "workable," Mayor Bill Schirf said Monday afternoon.
City Council will consider it for adoption Dec. 19.
First on an 18-item list of revisions is elimination of a recommendation to study the feasibility of the fire department's taking over ambulance service in the city - a proposal that might have been fatal to AMED.
"We're relieved," said AMED Deputy Director Gary Watters.
The proposal provoked an outcry from the ambulance service and city leaders and also didn't win favor from the fire department.
"I was overwhelmed with the support," Watters said. "Clearly, it sent a message."
Asked whether he had been confident the consultant would eliminate the provision, Watters demurred.
"By no means did I believe it was a slam dunk," he said.
He didn't know what AMED would have done had it remained, other than wait for council to accept or reject the plan, Watters said
"There wasn't much we could do," he said.
The suggestions for improvements from city staff, city officials and other stakeholders forced the consultant's team to "dig down and be analytical," said team leader John Espenshade of Stevens & Lee.
There are "a lot of good things in the plan," Schirf said. "I believe they made a sincere effort to listen to us."
He wouldn't have supported the original version, he said.
The revisions call for keeping the per capita and flat rate occupation taxes, which the city began collecting this year. It makes no sense to stop, because of the revenue they generate and because the Altoona Area School District would almost certainly resume collecting its share if the city doesn't continue to claim it, Schirf said.
The revisions also call for the inclusion of paving projects and the purchase of police vehicles in the capital plan.
That jibes with the plan's insistence on the importance of paving often enough to avoid the kind of deterioration that requires expensive rebuilding of streets.
It also jibes with the city's insistence that it makes sense not to use general fund money on police cars, when capital borrowing can pay for them.
The revisions call for keeping incentive payments for employees who opt out of health coverage - although it will reduce that payment from 40 percent of the city's savings to 20 percent.
The revisions softened provisions restricting compensatory time for police, because the original provisions could have led to more overtime.
The revisions included the addition of Act 47 grants - $250,000 for a study to determine how to increase the number of housing units downtown, $220,000 for information technology initiatives and $44,000 to improve collection of earned income tax.
The revisions leave intact a provision requiring the city to reduce non-personnel costs by 4 percent. Suggested categories include conferences, training, vehicles, consultant services, dues, equipment, legal services, maintenance agreements, postage, printing, supplies and travel expenses.
Asked why the provision remained, Espenshade said, "That's our recommendation."
Will the continued presence of that 4 percent requirement be a problem?
"Yeah," said Finance Director Omar Strohm, shaking his head.
It doesn't bother controller A.C. Stickel. If it's hard to cut costs, that shows you're already being frugal, he said, before adding you can always do better.
The consultant "responded to some of our concerns," said City Manager Joe Weakland, who wasn't prepared to say anything else Monday afternoon.
The revisions do not include eliminating a provision to cut two landscaping posts in the Public Works Department, in favor of seasonal or contract employees.
That would leave the department shorthanded for winter maintenance, officials said.
Schirf thinks the consultant will eventually compromise on that issue.
"I have a plan," he said.
The mayor is thankful the plan doesn't call for major layoffs.
If council adopts the plan, it must follow its provisions, according to Act 47 requirements.
But there's flexibility, Schirf said, citing the consultant's cover letter for the revisions:
"The plan ... is a "living document," the letter states. "The role of the coordinator through implementation is to work with the city to review and make adjustments to changing conditions."
Still, the plan is "not a silver bullet," Stickel said. "This is the beginning."
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.