Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Closed-Door Meetings on Parking and Pensions

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is to hold separate closed-door meetings with Council members this afternoon to discuss use of the city's parking assets to bolster its sagging pension fund. The mayor will meet with no more than 4 Councilors at a time. A policy discussion with 5 or more council members would require a public meeting.
The administration's Director of Finance Scott Kunka says that the meetings are an effort "to build consensus because there are a lot of stakeholders" and that includes union members who work at the city-owned garages and other union workers who are invested in the pension fund, as well as downtown businesses and city taxpayers.
There have been 3 proposals put forth to use the parking assets to get an infusion of cash to get the city's pension fund to at least the 50% mark of its obligation. It's currently at about 30% of the $989.5 million that is owed.
Mayor Ravenstahl wants to lease city-owned parking assets for 50 years for $200 million. Councilman Patrick Dowd and City Controller Michael Lamb have proposed shifting some of the parking assets directly to the pension fund. Council President Darlene Harris has suggested floating a $200 million bond and using the parking revenues to pay back the bond and the interest.
Kunka says there is "no silver bullet in this case" but the mayor's plan makes the most sense because it's a win-win-win........a win for the pensioners, a win for the fund itself, and a win for taxpayers who will now have a pension fund moving toward solvency that's not going to cause massive tax increases or cuts in services."

City Council authorized an outside study of the 3 plans. Kunka says under the mayor's plan, they expect to open bids for the lease in early July which would allow enough time to get a deal to meet the January deadline the state imposed for Pittsburgh to reach the 50% level of its pension obligation.

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