City Controller Michael Lamb presented the first ever “Popular Annual Financial Report” for the year 2009—a more easily understandable summary of Pittsburgh’s financial condition than the comprehensive report already released.
Lamb says revenues exceeded expenditures again, and long-term debt has declined from a high of almost a billion dollars to less than $650 million, so the city has surpassed all Act 47 expectations since 2003.
Lamb sees significant challenges, however. One is declining population, because residents and property owners provide most of the revenues needed to run city government. He urges a continuation of revitalization efforts to attract new people.
Lamb says the austerity measures that have improved the city's fiscal health have deferred critical maintenance of aging infrastructure: roads, stairs, sidewalks storm sewers, etc. He estimates that the city should pave 80 miles of roads a year but notes barely 40 are being done this year. $25- to $30 million went to capital projects in 2009, but Lamb estimates $40- to $45 million would be necessary just to keep up, much less catch up.
Lamb expects a debate this fall on the mayor's proposal to lease parking garages or some other way the city can come up with $220 million dollars for its pension fund before the end of the year to avoid a state takeover. Although he thinks the state should eventually consolidate the 3100 pension plans that exist, he says Pittsburgh residents could not possibly afford to meet state demands under the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System's current guidelines.
The report is available online.