Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Congratulate, but Verify the City Is No Longer Distressed! but It Still Needs Oversight

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Congratulate, but Verify the City Is No Longer Distressed! but It Still Needs Oversight

Article excerpt

One of us is a Catholic nun with the Sisters of Mercy who also ran a college. The other is a union leader who made a living working in the building trades. But we share more things in common than one might think.

The first is that we served together on the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority -- a.k.a. the city oversight committee. We were appointed by former Gov. Ed Rendell and former House Speaker John Perzel. We served because of our common love for our city and desire to help it regain a solid financial footing. Working with business, labor and nonprofit leaders, two different mayors, City Council, the city controller, the state Legislature, the governor's office and, especially, the Act 47 coordinators, we saw a city begin to move in the right direction.

The second thing we share is our support of the recent findings of the Act 47 team and its recommendation to terminate the city's status as a financially distressed municipality -- while keeping the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority in existence.

Earlier this week, the Act 47 coordinators sent a report to Secretary Alan Walker of the Department of Community and Economic Development that said Pittsburgh's operating budget is now structurally balanced, with recurring revenues consistently outpacing expenditures. It pointed out that the city government has significantly addressed the legacy costs of pensions, retiree health care and workers compensation. These are all good things that should be celebrated, but there is a third thing we share ...

We agree that this is no time to remove all oversight. There are too many pending obstacles and too much work to be done to assure the long-term financial stability of our great city.

What are some of the obstacles?

The first is pension reform. The city is still paying out much more than it takes in for pensions. And, although the city avoided state takeover of its pension system by pledging parking revenues, this has brought the funding level to only 62 percent of future obligations. Real questions remain about the true asset value of the anticipated parking revenues.

The second obstacle is overall debt. …

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