Mayor Luke Ravenstahl last week presented Pittsburgh’s 2014 Operating and Capital Budget and Five-Year Plan to city employees, members of City Council and community leaders in City Council Chambers.
For the eighth year in a row, the mayor’s proposed $480 million budget is balanced, contains no new tax increases or layoffs, and advances the city’s commitment to investing in neighborhoods and infrastructure. In addition, the plan holds the line on spending, budgets revenues conservatively – estimating expenditures to be less than revenues in every year of the plan.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how far we’ve come,” said Mayor Ravenstahl. “We have brought financial stability back to city government. We have taken the city from the brink of bankruptcy to financial recovery, and we have done it together. We made a promise to the people of Pittsburgh seven years ago, and we have kept that promise.”
The backbone of the city’s financial success has been the commitment to paying down past debts, resulting in the retiring of a quarter of a billion dollars of debt. In the year 2018, the city will reach a debt cliff, and in 2019 debt service payments will reduce by more than $30 million, freeing up money for more capital investment. The city has received 10 bond rating upgrades and its investment status has gone from ‘junk’ grade to ‘A’ status - bringing the city’s credit score to the highest it’s been in a decade.
“Five years without acquiring any new debt meant we all had to make sacrifices; we had to do more with less,” said Mr. Ravenstahl. “It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always the most popular choice. While other governments were increasing taxes and laying off workers – we balanced our budgets, kept our streamlined workforce and, in fact, cut taxes.”
Over the course of the five-year plan, the proposed budget commits $25 million to a pay-as-you-go capital budget while pledging an additional $25 million to the pension fund. Top capital projects include:
• $30 million in projects throughout the city to improve neighborhoods’ quality of life, including additional spray parks and improvements to recreation centers and playgrounds.
• $5 million toward ongoing efforts to modernize and improve the city’s fleet.
• $7 million to ensure another robust paving program.
• $2 million in demolition.
The budget has already been approved by the ICA and Act 47. City Council has until December 31 to pass the Mayor’s budget or make modifications.