Friday, October 15, 2010

PMRS: City needs $220 million to $300 Million to get to 50% Funding.

As its parking lease deal lies peacefully in a coma, Pittsburgh's path to achieving 50% municipal pensions funding levels may be getting steeper -- at least if it feels a desire to get there by year's end.

The only other really salient feature of yesterday's Council meeting in Pittsburgh not already mentioned below or to the right was when PMRS Secretary James Allen indicated that the city's pensions might be $220 million short "at the low end" or up to $300 million short "at the high end" from 50% funding levels -- depending upon how actuarial data just sped to PMRS headquarters in Harrisburg turns out.

$220 million is the figure which to date has been widely reported and referenced when dealing with satisfying the requirements of Act 44.

"The Legislature saw a train wreck coming with the Jan 1, 2009 numbers," Allen said, and it was thereby motivated to pass the Act last autumn -- which requires that Pittsburgh's fund management be handed over to PMRS if it does achieve 50% funding by Dec 31, 2010. Evidently the Legislature did not see those numbers definitively, yet rather intuited a general "train wreck" sense of them at the time.

Allen said the actuarial calculations will be completed "within three weeks". Three weeks from the date of that statement will be Thursday, November 4.

Mayor Ravenstahl has said that in order for the lease transaction to be completed by the end of the year and the funds deposited, City Council would have to vote to approve it by the end of October. The $452 million lease and plan would be able to meet the worst-case $300 million shortfall scenario, though only with a less-than-anticipated $60 million cushion to allocate as the city chooses.

At this moment the lease has one declared affirmate vote (Councilman Burgess), two other fairly likely affirmative votes which abstained during preliminaries due to a dearth of information on the overall pensions situation (Council members Lavelle and Smith) and six presently pledged to vote against.

On Tuesday, Council members Dowd, Harris and Rudiak advanced the framework of an alternative plan to reach 50% funding by the end of the year which entails a bond issue, to be backed by parking rate increases more modest than under the lease. The bond would be issued either through the City or the city's Parking Authority, though each faces its own hurdles. It is not known yet to what degree a "high-end" shortfall figure like $300 million would impact the workability of that plan-in-progress, which also has enjoyed the support of city Controller Michael Lamb.

Councilman Peduto has been most vocal in recommending that the City eschew all attempts at hustling to reach 50% pensions funding by the end of the year, and rather accept fund management by PMRS. Councilman Dowd expressed a hesitancy to do that at yesterday's meeting, citing the fact that Pittsburgh itself does not have any direct representation on PMRS's board -- though that is something "which might be negotiated in the future."

Mayor Ravenstahl returns from a trip to Shanghai, China and Seoul, S. Korea this weekend.


  1. So let's see, increased revenues may have to cover paying off $300 million in new bonds. And then there is the nagging matter of needing to actually invest hundreds of millions in the crumbling parking assets at some point to upgrade them to modern standards. Oh, and that $100+ million in existing parking debt that the lease would otherwise pay off. But of course the necessary rate increases will be SO much lower, because as we all know, politicians will be a model of efficiency in operating the assets.

    No wonder the pitchfork crowd is in such a hurry. In other words--does this Unicorn Milk taste funny to you?

  2. The Burgess Plan seems best. The Lease Deal gets us to 50%, and placing all the extra money into the Fund - rather than into Kevin Quigley's driveway - is the most responsible thing.

    As for retaining the public asset...the Parking Authority is not a paragon of efficiency, and it will never become one. Without outside management, needed infrastructure upgrades seem unlikely also.

    After scaring everyone with the dreaded shade of Rate Increases, everything we have seen from Council so far seems to require then as well.

    I really believe that there is more political gamesmanship on Council's side. They have focused on stirring up the hornet's nest, but they have offered few solutions and none of them better.

  3. But Council is winning in the court of opinion.

  4. Perhaps in your estimation, but in the court of reality, the entire City government looks ridiculous.

    And as Council has proven, and in grand fashion, in a way that the City's history will show undeniably, this will turn out to be a war with few battles, a war with fewer monuments, only casualties.

    Because no matter who prevails, the losses and the pain will be felt long after the bodies are cleared from the battlefield.

    Anyone who claims to be winning here is seriously troubled.

  5. Council is winning in the court of published opinion. until %voter turn out exceeds the %pension funding, Quigley and his gamaradas down under will do as they please.

  6. Been a resident/property owner/taxpayer for almost a decade. My street, and all the streets within a 5 block radius, have been paved exactly zero times during this period. This Jagoff Quigley buys his house and within a year he has a new driveway thanks to the taxpayers who pay his bills.

    Why am I surprised? Ravenstahl's public works director has been doing the same thing for years.

    Frankly, I don't even really care that much about the street. What bothers me is Ravenstahl, his Staff and their supporters who believe they are entitled to use of public assets for private/personal gain.

    It is clearly a trend with this Administration....

  7. @Brambo Heard the name and thought of the movie, sprinkle some aborigine and voila.

    I'm more upset of their poor construction, than the overarching issue of patronage paving. Not only should he be fired for poor judgement, but he and his crew should remove and replace their substandard workmanship, at no cost to the city. Just because you can stand the heat and turn a screw on the back of an old Blawnox, doesn't mean you can build a road. Leave the construction to Swank, Trumble/Lindy et al.

  8. Right, because Lindy paving does such excellent work.
    With top notch materials.
    In a timely manner.
    For a decent price