Mayor Peduto proposes 2021 Operating and Capital budgets
November 17, 2020
Last week, Mayor William Peduto delivered his proposed 2021 Operating and Capital budgets to City Council, and delivered his annual State of the City address.
The $564 million operating budget does not include tax increases and works to avoid layoffs and furloughs of city personnel.
Due to COVID-19 the city has been forced to spend nearly all of the $120 fund balance the city built up through fiscal discipline the past seven years, and is joining cities nationwide seeking federal aid to help pay for the services and safety provided to residents through the ongoing pandemic.
"We made tough decisions to stop public events, close pools, senior centers and rec centers, but still watched as our coworkers and neighbors lost their livelihoods and too often their lives," the Mayor said in his budget speech.
"Our tax revenues cratered, and there is still no clear path forward to replace them. We listened to the pain expressed by neighbors who have been threatened by exclusionary and inequitable systems for generations, and we proudly declared that Black Lives Matter.
"Despite all of this we kept our resolve during one of the most difficult years in American history. I'm here today to tell you that with your help and that of Pittsburgh's residents, we're going to have to do it all over again in 2021, but it is my hope we will emerge from next year even stronger," he said.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates the city will have a $55 million operating deficit at the end of this year. Pittsburgh is required by law to have a balanced budget, so should the city not receive aid from Washington the proposed budget would require making $25.6 million in personnel cuts starting July 1, which is approximately the jobs of 634 employees. Other spending cuts and the depletion of most of the city's reserves would be needed to further bridge the budget gap.
The proposed budget includes shifting some funding and responsibilities from the Pittsburgh Police to the new Health, Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative, which will house the Office of Community Health and Safety and the Office of Community Services and Violence Prevention. This move will have police focus on their core function of keeping neighborhoods safe from crime, and it will mean full-time funding for Public Safety's Group Violence Intervention program for the very first time.
"We are not defunding the police, but are re-funding our communities," Mayor Peduto said.
Despite proposed cuts in spending, investments in critical city needs and services will continue.
This year the city:
• Upgraded 21 courts
• Upgraded 35 parks
• Upgraded seven playgrounds
• Received $1.5 million in grants for parks, senior centers and rec centers
And next year the city will invest a total of $125 million into capital projects including funding for:
• Park investments at Deer Pit, Bud Hammer, Enright, Arsenal, Emerald View, Sheraden, and Kennard
• Strip District Rail Banking and the Allegheny Green Boulevard
• Funding for Warrington, Jefferson, and Robert E Williams Rec Centers, as well as the Brighton Heights Senior Center
• A new spray park in Chartiers City
• Continued record funding for landslide repairs including El Paso Street, Riverview Park and Parkwood Road
• Funding for EMS Diesel Exhaust Systems, Fire Station 19, and Stevens School Improvements
• $4 million for phase one of the transition of all street lights to LEDs
The city will also be spending $17 million to repave 65 miles of streets in 2021.
Via the Mayor's Office of Equity, the city has:
• Committed more than $10 million to the URA next year - double the funding of this year - to invest in affordable housing. Avenues of Hope and an equitable recovery plan from COVID-19, in addition to the annual $10 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
• Leveraged more than $67 million in additional housing aid, helped Pittsburghers purchase their first homes, added additional affordable rental units and helped longtime homeowners stay in their homes and communities
• Approved Paid Sick Leave, which will go into full effect starting January 1, 2021
• Received a record level of 9 percent low-income tax credits for affordable housing
• Implemented ACE Pgh to help those living in poverty with direct payments, planned for early 2021 in conjunction with the ONEPGH investment strategy
• Adopted the Avenues of Hope initiative with the URA and Councilmen Burgess and Lavelle to invest in historically diverse business districts
• Adopted the GARE (Government Alliance on Race and Equity) racial equity toolkit and training
• Approved $23 million in contracts to minority and women-owned businesses
• Adopted Financial Empowerment Centers that helped 557 people save $320,000
• Created the LGBTQIA Commission
• Adopted an award-winning Rec2Tech program with Citiparks
• Distributed 46,000 free books to 4,000 children though the Dolly Parton Imagination Library
The draft budgets introduced today must be finally approved by the end of the year. Council is set to begin budget hearings with city departments and agencies starting November 18, begin its preliminary votes December 14 and take a final vote December 21.
All hearings are votes are being held virtually.