March 2, 2011
Three Pittsburgh City Council members today plan to introduce legislation that would piggyback the city onto Allegheny County’s comprehensive financial management system — a course favored by two sets of state overseers but opposed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
The legislation could pit the council and administration in another test of wills, just a couple of months after their last battle over how to fund a pension bailout.
The overseers “have asked for this to be done. I don’t know what’s taking so long,” said council President Darlene Harris, who is sponsoring the legislation along with Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak.
For years, the state-appointed oversight boards — the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and Act 47 recovery team — have been urging the city to upgrade its aging financial services infrastructure by joining the county system. City Controller Michael Lamb supports the idea, and Mrs. Harris noted that council also signaled its approval as recently as December by authorizing up to $10 million for the project.
Last week, however, Mr. Ravenstahl put his foot down, saying he didn’t want to spend about $9 million to join the county system when the city could spend about $3.3 million to join a yet-unfinished Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority system instead.
The ICA then sent a letter demanding that Mr. Ravenstahl — within 10 days — introduce legislation spelling out the terms of a city-county partnership. In a separate letter, the Act 47 team also requested that the city move ahead with plans to join the county system.
Because Mr. Ravenstahl hasn’t signaled a willingness to comply, the three council members plan to introduce the legislation. Similar legislation already has been introduced in county council.