Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb has unveiled an alternative to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s plan to lease the city’s parking garages and meters for 50 years. The mayor last week announced the high bid of $451 million dollars. He planned on using at least 200 million of that to boost the city’s pension fund to at least 50% of its $990 million obligation to city workers and retirees.
The state has threatened to take over the pension fund, meaning higher annual contributions by the city, unless the 50% threshold is reached by January.
Several months ago Controller Lamb proposed transferring the parking assets directly to the Pension Fund. But the Administration indicated that might not be legal. Lamb says he has revised his proposal to meet the mayor’s concerns that the deal would not involve the city acquiring new debt and that it be a cash deal and “not some recognition of revenue” that would be derived from the parking garages and meters.
Lamb says the city has a strong cash position and he proposes using $60 million in reserves to make an advance payment of next year’s contribution to the pension fund. Then he suggests that the city sell the parking assets to the Parking Authority, not a private company, for $150 million. The combined $210 million would then boost the pension fund to the 50% mark..
Lamb says the lease proposal would mean an 11-12% annual increase in parking rates in the first few years. He says his proposal would also mean higher rates but only about a third of the increase that the lease deal would require. The controller said he met with the mayor Wednesday afternoon and he was “happy to have another option” and that Ravenstahl and council members that Lamb spoke with believe it’s “an idea worth consideration.”