Pittsburgh City Council begins 2018 budget process

Pittsburgh City Council begins 2018 budget process

Author: Alanna Koll/Tuesday, December 12, 2017/Categories: Pittsburgh

As 2017 winds down, Pittsburgh City Council is expected to finish up a number of initiatives and bills, including considering the 2018 city budget amendments and establishing the city’s long-term financial practices, before ringing in the new year 

Making its way through an already packed agenda Tuesday, Council passed legislation that would codify Act 47 best practices and Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority requirements in the city’s annual operating budget.  

Mayor Bill Peduto called for the city to exit the state oversight status in his 2018 budget address last month. He called for City Council to solidify several fiscal reforms such as debt management practices and caps on pension enhancements.  

Council approved amendments to the Act 47 legislation on Tuesday, including that the Mayor must present his preliminary capital and operating budget on or before September 30 each year, a final city budget must not exceed two percent of the September proposed budget, and include a standard schedule to pay down their debt service.  

Last week, members held a piece of legislation that would continue Act 47 initiatives by making no enhancements to existing pension benefits, including retroactive benefits outside of the collective bargaining process.  

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith (District 2) called for the bill to be held in order to get a second legal opinion on the matter, outside of the city’s Solicitor’s office. 

“A legal opinion is just that, an opinion,” said Kail-Smith. “Just because one attorney says one thing, and that attorney works for the administration, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be looking at an independent review of it.”  

It is unclear when the bill will be brought back up for a final vote.  

Also on Tuesday, Council passed a number of line-item budget amendments that range from creating a Worker’s Compensation Commutation Trust Fund that will potentially help go toward funding affordable housing initiatives, to taking money from the city’s paving fund to help fund the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, among others.  

About 39 capital and operating budget amendments were passed by days end, but those amendments could still be reworked and changed before a final budget is passed. A final budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, December 19.  

Aside from passing the 2018 budget, Council is expected to vote on a way to fund the Affordable Housing Opportunity Trust Fund that was enacted last December. Many members have voiced their support of increasing the city’s realty transfer tax from four to five percent in order to fill the fund, but others have opposed the proposal, fearing that it will make the city less attractive to home buyers.  

A coalition of councilmembers revealed a plan last week that would cobble together money from unused accounts in the budget and higher-than-anticipated revenues at the end of 2017 to put roughly $4 million into the housing fund. It would also put $2 million into the city’s Community Facilities Fund for improving city child-care centers.  

Members are also excepted to take up about 80 pieces of legislation before years end, including hosting post agenda meetings on the city’s Climate Action Plan and its Land Bank Policies & Procedures.