PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mayor Bill Peduto submitted next year’s $554-Million operating budget to city council on Monday, and, no surprise, he hailed the balanced budgets of recent years.
“The city has produced balanced budgets every year, achieved positive operating results, continued to put more money into the pension fund, maintained a healthy fund balance, and implemented a number of initiatives to improve city government operations,” the mayor declared.
With that good news, Peduto said it’s time to end the city’s distressed city status under Act 47 and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority’s legislative oversight.
“I am happy to share a letter that I have sent to Gov. Wolf and Secretary Davin of the DCED (PA Dept. of Community & Economic Development) requesting their approval to end the city’s distressed status.”
But there’s a hitch.
Council must enact reforms to guarantee that Pittsburgh never falls back into bankruptcy distress again.
“We want to make sure that the protections are in place first before lifting the veil of Act 47,” said Peduto at a press conference following his address.
Peduto also called on the legislature to enact statewide pension reform, long overdue says Councilman Dan Gilman of Shadyside.
“The state pension system is broken,” Gilman told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.
“The state is actually subsidizing pension systems in areas that are 100 percent funded because they are new and have few retirees, areas like Cranberry, while not investing accordingly in cities like Pittsburgh.”
Peduto also called on non-profits exempt from some taxes, like; UPMC, Highmark, CMU,and Pitt, to contribute to a new fund called OnePGH to support projects for affordable housing, universal pre-K, and safe water.
The mayor pledged new revenue from the city to help fund this.
That brought an objection from Councilman Corey O’Connor of Squirrel Hill.
“I don’t know why we would have to raise a tax in order to get non-profits who pay no taxes in the city of Pittsburgh to contribute to our residents and the future of their well-being,” said O’Connor.
Debate on all these issues now begins.
Gov. Wolf tells the “KDKA Morning News” there is a process to get out of Act 47.
“The first thing is recovery coordinators are appointed. Then, they hold a hearing. Then, they take the transcripts and send them to the Department of Community and Economic Development,” said Wolf.
After the department reviews the transcripts and makes a decision, Wolf will review it.
Wolf adds, “I applaud the mayor for moving to remove the city from Act 47.”
Wolf doesn’t know how long the process will take.