By: KDKA-TV’s Meghan Schiller
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mayor Bill Peduto sat down with KDKA’s Meghan Schiller and talked about the city’s financial outlook in light of COVID-19.
“I keep hearing that the White House is a strong supporter of our workers in uniform. Well, how do you expect us to pay them next year?” the mayor said.
He said without a government program at a federal level, cities across the nation — including Pittsburgh — will have to lay off front line responders.
“With our prudent budgeting over the last six years and ending each year with a surplus, our rainy day fund will be able to take care if it for this year,” he said.
But next year, Mayor Peduto said he’s left with very few choices.
“We can’t raise taxes on people who are already hurting. We can’t borrow our own way because that’s the mistake we made in the past,” said Mayor Peduto.
The mayor met with city leaders Monday to start putting together a draft for next year’s budget. He tells KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that without more funding, the city is $100 million short. He also said the potential future cuts will need to come from every department.
“And that will hurt police officers, firefighters, medics, the people working in finance, parks and recreation, the mayor’s office. All of our different departments will be affected.”
City Controller Michael Lamb put it in perspective.
“I would say that we are in trouble like every other city is, but I would actually argue that the city is probably in less trouble than some,” Lamb said.
He credits that surplus and a hiring freeze for keeping the city on track.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller reached out to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and Fire to inquire about current staffing levels and the effects any potential future cuts would have.
Public Information Officer Cara Cruz said “with expected annual retirements and the significant amount of time it takes to train both Police and Fire recruits, any additional cuts to personnel would be a concern to both bureaus.”
Cruz tells KDKA that about 950 police officers are on staff right now and the number jumps to a little more than 1,000 when the department includes the recruit classes coming online.
These numbers include officers, command staff, lieutenants, sergeants, detectives, recruits and those off on long-term leave and injury.
With retirement eligibility, resignations and the cancellation of two upcoming recruit classes, “any additional cuts to the Bureau could have an impact on operations and also hamper the ability to recruit diverse candidates that reflect the communities that police serve.”
Cruz added it takes more than a year from the time recruits begin training to when they hit the streets.
Cruz also said 17 vacant positions exist at the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. There is a current recruitment class that could fill some vacancies, but it’s too soon to say how many vacancies will exist by the time of graduation.