Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Councilmember says Third Draft of City Budget not Quite Right

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has submitted the third draft of the city's 2011 budget and five year spending plan. The first time his plan was rejected by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority because it included funds from leasing the city's parking assets, which was rejected by city council. The second draft was sent back because it included funds that had not been accounted for as well as insufficient contributions to the pension fund as stipulated under Act 47. The most recent version outlines a $451 million plan, with $50 million set aside for the pension fund. The city's pension only holds 27.5% of its total liabilities and it needs to reach the 50% funded mark by the end of the month to avoid state takeover. Councilman Patrick Dowd says he's not satisfied with the latest draft of the budget, in part because it doesn't do enough to bolster the the pension. "We can pay $70 (million), we can pay $80, we can pay $90...we want to make sure we're paying more into the pension fund than just our minimum." And Dowd says he's frustrated with the lack of progress in talks about fixing the city's looming pension crisis. In October city council rejected the mayor's plan to lease the city's parking garages and meters to LAZ Parking for 50 years for an upfront payment to the pension fund. In turn Ravenstahl nixed council's plan to sell the city's parking assets to the Parking Authority for a pension payment. Dowd says they've tried to meet the mayor half way."We worked on a compromise on the lease plan, really making the LAZ offer meet the council-controller plan and he's rejected that. How many times can we offer the executive branch a solution–if it's not the solution they've offered, it's not going to work–it's very frustrating at this point." Without a big payment, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System will take over the city's pension next year and implement a strictly regimented payment schedule that could force the city to cut services and raise taxes.

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