Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dowd Wants to Follow the Money

Pittsburgh city councilman Pat Dowd says he is concerned about $37.7 million that was moved from one account to another in the tentative 5-year budget plan. He says the funds were shifted some time between the preliminary 5-year budget plan published in September and the one published and approved by the ICA October 20th. The ICA reduced the fund balance from 10% to 5% and disbursed $37.7 million into restricted funds. At the same time debt service over the same five years was reduced by $51 million. Dowd says he thinks it is a great idea to pay down debit but he wants to see exactly how it is being done. He says if bonds are being paid off early or refinanced he wants to know which bonds, how much money and what are the administrative costs associated with the plan. Dowd says he has been asking the city finance department, the mayor’s office and the ICA for an explanation for more than a month and a half and all he has been told is that council does not vote on the 5-year plan. Dowd says he is not sure if that is true or not but he does feel he should be entitled to a better accounting of the found transfers. One note in the budget says the funds were placed a “something in the nature of an irrevocable fund.” He says there is no such accounting term. It is either irrevocable or it is not. Dowd successfully delayed the “tentative budget vote” to have been taken Monday and the council will take that vote Wednesday morning. Council is also scheduled to take a preliminary vote later that same day and a final vote next week. Dowd says if he does not get an answer before Wednesday morning he will introduce an amendment to the budget demanding an explanation of the fund transfers within 30 days. He says he does not want to prevent the budget for being in place by the end of the year but he feels he needs a better accounting than he is getting.

The mayor’s office and the finance department have not responded to requests for interviews.

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