ShareThis Page

'Clock's ticking' on Pittsburgh's shortfall

| Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011

Pittsburgh officials still have not identified how they will plug an annual $13 million hole in their operating budget, created last year when City Council dedicated parking tax money to shore up the ailing pension system.

The solution, according to city and parking authority officials, could include higher parking rates, higher taxes and cuts in services.

Councilman Bill Peduto and Controller Michael Lamb said it's up to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to renegotiate agreements with the parking authority, which pays the city $15 million annually for 9,000 metered spaces and 13 garages.

"The clock's ticking," Peduto said. "A new agreement has to be signed."

Ravenstahl's spokeswoman said it's up to council to deal with the Parking Authority board, whose members Ravenstahl appoints.

"We have to try to make the best out of a very bad situation we've been put in and move forward," Joanna Doven said.

But she added that Ravenstahl "won't sign off on any new taxes."

City officials said renegotiated agreements, parking rate increases and cost-cutting measures could generate an additional $10 million annually.

City finance director Scott Kunka, Ravenstahl's representative on the authority board, said the authority may not be able to provide additional money because it has its own debts to cover, about $110 million worth, and has to find ways to pay for parking system improvements, some mandated by City Council.

"(Council) simply cannot guarantee or pledge revenues of the parking authority back to the city," Kunka said. The authority is studying how much renovating four garages and replacing nearly 1,200 parking meters Downtown and in Oakland would cost.

Authority Executive Director David Onorato said the city and parking authority have, in essence, a contract.

"You just can't assume it will all change," Onorato said.

Last fall, council and the Ravenstahl administration battled over how to fund at least half of the city's $1 billion in pension obligations to avoid a state takeover of the retirement accounts for 8,000 active and retired employees. Ravenstahl pushed a plan in which a private operator would lease the parking system; Ravenstahl said it would have paid for needed upgrades to the parking system.

Council rejected that plan, and after floating several ideas, on New Year's Eve agreed to put $13 million in parking tax money in the pensions, a number that will rise to $26.7 million in 2018.

Council increased parking meter rates as part of last year's attempt to fund the pension; those increases take effect in June.

Several council members, along with Lamb, believe the Parking Authority can raise garage rates to make additional money for the city; Lamb said increases would still fall short of national averages.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me