PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh’s City Council approved Mayor Bill Peduto’s new $516.6 million budget Monday.
Mayor Bill Peduto says it’s a budget without gimmicks.
“It actually allows for us to account for our finances in a real way,” Peduto said shortly after the council vote.
“In other words, for years we budgeted for 900 police officers but only hire 850. We would put in the budget numbers for building inspectors but would never hire them. And we would basically hide what the true revenue stream should be.”
Most council members said this was no frills budget.
“This is a win for our taxpayers,” noted Councilman Dan Gilman of Shadyside. “This is the first time in a decade they can look at a city budget and say it’s transparent, investing in today, and investing in the future.”
But there is a cost.
The city’s property tax goes up half a mill, or about $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed value. Parking meter rates will go up fifty cents to a dollar an hour more. And fees for residential and commercial building permits will be hiked.
Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill cast the lone vote against.
“There is a tax increase in it. The budget is almost $30 million over what it was last year, and I think you have to live within your means,” said Harris.
The mayor says the property tax hike resulted because bad estimates by his predecessor cut taxes too much in 2012 — and the city also has higher pension payments, debt service, and more overtime pay for law enforcement and public safety.
But, he added, “Before we raised one cent of any taxes, we cut 74 positions out of the budget, we took a 5 percent cut to every department, we did a wage freeze of every city employee, we required city employees to pay more under their health care.”
Now the city’s overseers – the ICA or Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority – must approve the budget. They have scheduled a public hearing for December 29th.
There were a few amendments to the original proposal, specifically about the mayor’s plan for extended parking enforcement in the city.
Starting in January, there will be no nighttime parking meter enforcement in Downtown Pittsburgh.
“It took me around 15, 20 minutes, circling around the blocks down here,” said Adam Lyons of the North Side.
“It’s very hard. You got to ride around about 8 times before you find a parking place,” noted Louise Kelly of the Hill District.
Dynamic pricing, or demand-driven pricing, will continue in high-use parking neighborhoods, but not after 6 p.m. Mayor Peduto thinks the move will make the city more efficient and in turn, save money.
“By studying how our parking spaces are used — or left empty — we will make the ways city government charges for its spaces more like a business, based on supply and demand. People using often empty parking spaces will enjoy a cost break, while those seeking the most-used spaces will either have to pay more or move on. This is just one of the ways we are making city services smarter and more cost-efficient for city residents and businesses,” Mayor Peduto said.
“What that means is that we’re going to be working with the Director of Finance here in the city of Pittsburgh along with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to actually look at what the demand is for parking in different parts of the city,” said Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, chair of the Finance Committee.
“And we’re going to change the prices accordingly,” she added.
The bad news is the maximum rates are going up to $4 an hour Downtown, $3 an hour in Oakland and on the North Shore, and a $1.50 an hour everywhere else.
But under dynamic pricing, the hourly rate could go down, depending on time of day and demand.
“Depending on supply and demand [is] what the price will be when you pull up,” the mayor told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
“And when there’s low demand the price drops down and when there’s high demand the price goes up.”
“That sounds better than this,” said Anna Malacki of Scott Township. “This was hard. We like drove around for a while trying to get this spot.”
But many don’t think rates will be reduced.
“It’s a money grab. That’s what it is,” noted Tameka Durant of West Mifflin.
Before dynamic parking and dynamic pricing come to Pittsburgh, there an awful lot of wrinkles that have to be worked out.
Take a regular pay station, for example, where you can pay to park anywhere in the city. How does one station in one part of the city know the dynamic parking rate three blocks away?
That needs to be worked out, along with a pay-by-phone app that would give you the dynamic hourly parking rate.
But here’s some good news.
Council said no to evening enforcement Downtown or on the North Shore as earlier planned, although it’s still on the books for the South Side sometime in early 2015.
To make up for lost revenues that were supposed to come from the proposed extended parking meter enforcement, the 2015 budget calls for an increase in parking ticket fines.
Some fines will be increased by $5 to $10.
You May Also Be Interested In These Latest News Stories
[display-posts category=”news” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”4″]
Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter