Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
April 6, 2011

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb on Tuesday estimated that the city has about $13 million for capital projects this year, a figure that puts him between a mayor who claims the city has nothing and council members who contend it has about $25 million.

Mr. Lamb said the sum available for capital projects could increase if the state follows through on the $9 million purchase of the Municipal Courts Building, Downtown, and if the state and federal governments provide outstanding reimbursements. The amount of reimbursements wasn’t immediately available.

The $13 million that Mr. Lamb cited is different from the $13.3 million that state overseers last week agreed to release to the city for restricted uses, such as the purchase of a financial management system and public-safety vehicles.

Mr. Lamb accentuated the positive in Standard & Poor’s announcement that it was reaffirming the city’s BBB bond rating while revising the city’s financial outlook from “stable” to “negative” because of concerns about pension debt.

Mr. Lamb made the remarks during the first of three special council meetings on city finance. Councilman Bill Peduto, the body’s finance chairman, scheduled the meetings amid council’s disagreements with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office over the operating and capital budgets.

Mr. Peduto said the mayor’s representatives weren’t invited to the meeting because he wanted to avoid a “total argument back and forth.” But their absence displeased Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith.

“It’s helpful to me to hear both sides,” she said.

Mr. Ravenstahl’s office claims that council’s financial juggling left the city no money for a capital budget this year and insufficient money to fund the operating budget through December. Council members insisted that the city had $25 million left for capital projects this year and that there would be ample operating money if the mayor supported council’s demand that the parking authority, after raising rates by modest amounts, turn over additional revenue to the city.

Mr. Lamb said the city has about $25 million for capital projects, with about $13 million previously allocated to projects still in the works.