Council to discuss state designation

A group of city residents is petitioning the state to declare the city financially distressed.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- City council plans to meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the pros and cons of asking the state to declare the city financially distressed.
The city has been wavering on a plan to pursue Pennsylvania Act 47, which governs municipalities the state has declared as financially distressed. Council had intended to vote last Thursday on whether to petition the state for the financial designation, but postponed the vote until several legal concerns could be resolved, city officials said.
Impact of designation
They said they have to seriously consider the effects working under the act could have on city operations. They also are concerned about a potential tax increase that could result from the move.
Meanwhile, a group of city residents has taken matters into its own hands, seeking financially distressed status for the city. The group, headed by John Altman, secured 688 signatures from registered voters. A petition containing those signatures was sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development last week.
Under Act 47, the group was required to collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the city residents who voted in the last municipal election, which was in November 2005.
The department has 10 days from receipt of the petitions to set a time for a public hearing to determine whether the city qualifies for distressed status.
How requests are made
Circulation of petitions by residents is one of 10 ways that a request can be made for determination of financial distress. Another way is by action of city council, and another is through the mayor's office.
Additionally, council is still waiting for unions representing city police and public works employees to respond to a request by the city to accept a pay freeze in 2007. The firefighters have responded, but officials have declined to report on their stand. Clerical and code enforcement employees previously agreed to a pay freeze.

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