PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As the clock ticks down to midnight on Friday when the state takes over the city’s pension fund, some members of city council tried a last ditch effort to avoid that takeover.
“This plan meets the mayor’s criteria to create no new debt, receives commitment to work with the unions involved and assures a plan of success,” Council President Darlene Harris said Tuesday.
She was joined at a morning press conference by City Controller Michael Lamb and a majority of council members, who unveiled a plan that, they say, state pension officials have signed off on.
The idea is to commit the revenue from higher parking rates and meters directly into the city pension’s fund.
“If we were to dedicate revenue whether it be parking revenue or any other revenue to the pension fund over a term of years, could we add up that value and then discount it back to a present value calculation,” said Lamb.
Lamb says higher parking and meter rates for the next 30 years dedicated to the city pension fund would substitute for that $220 million up-front payment the state requires to avoid a takeover.
“There’s nobody who is making money off of it, there is no interest to be paid. This is the least expensive plan for the people of Pittsburgh,” noted City Council Finance Chair Bill Peduto.
Proponents say that is because it avoids the higher taxes that might be likely under a state takeover, but since it involves the Parking Authority raising garage rates, Mayor Ravenstahl must sign off too.
“Now with the controller behind it, all of council behind it, the ICA behind it, the state behind, there is just one person who needs to get behind it.”
The mayor controls the Parking Authority, and the latest plan requires rate hikes.
The public will feel the plan — the $2 an hour downtown meter rate will go up to $3 while rates in neighboring business districts rise to $1 or $2 an hour.
As for city parking garages, rates will go up, but less than the private garages.
Council members called on the mayor to work with them to prevent a state takeover.
“Every effort that we undertake in order to rectify this pension situation needs to be a cooperative effort between the mayor and city council, and this is no different,” said Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, a member of the Parking Authority.
Late Tuesday afternoon, in a surprise move, the mayor seemed to agree.
“I don’t want to be an obstructionist at this point, not knowing that this is a plan that they think will work. I hope they’re right. I don’t think they are, but I hope that they are,” said Ravenstahl at a late afternoon press conference.
While Ravenstahl criticized the latest council-controller plan as unworkable and costly to those who park, he said he would not veto it.
“It is severely if not critically flawed, as I have said, so I won’t sign the legislation, but I will not veto it,” Ravenstahl said.