Monday, November 22, 2010

Part 2: Liveblogging the Big Day on Council

In which factors impacting the coming 2011 annual budget process are explained, bemoaned.

- As we tuned in, Peduto was summarizing how cities like Pittsburgh are in an "impossible situation"; and then Councilman Bruce Kraus began asking their budget officer for the record how come casino gaming revenue did not come to solve these many problems as perhaps advertised years ago. He also emphasizes the central importance of non-profits contributing to "protect" the city.

- Harris is making certain that the ICA is forwarding to the city its share of table games revenue in addition to slots. Now they are discussing how the budget process is now in Council's court rather than that of the Mayor, at least in terms of getting the ball rolling. (This is a bit unorthodox.)

- Harris mentions that a community group on the North Side called to protest it is "being punished" by having its funding for a particular project pulled -- suggested that something happened in Councilman Dowd's district also. "Because they didn't vote in a particular way." Wants to make sure Council isn't bypassed.

- It seems like most of this budget hearing is going to be reviewing history and identifying problems. I'll keep tossing up the occasional note, but mainly only if it stirs the pot. Harris makes it known that other "distressed pension" municipalities like the affluent Fox Chapel get 100% of their pensions funded by the state.

- Councilwoman Smith, referencing the problems during Light Up Night, urges that the funding for public safety be increased to provide for 950 or 1,000 offers rather than the presently slated 917. The budget director reminds all that each officer represents $110,000 per position, and asserts that much of this must depend on privatization and civilianization of some positions (e.g. warrant office) and how the Chief manages the force.

- Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak echos Harris's request for information about Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) projects in neighborhoods by tomorrow's meeting. She emphasizes the need to explain to the public just how many city business taxes have been reduced / eliminated over past years, and to explain the correlation
if any between these tax cuts and eagerly anticipated increased business activity.

- Peduto clarifies that state pensions funding formula doesn't care how many retirees you have, but how many present employees. So if your active workforce has shrunk, you are penalized -- but if you are newer community like Cranberry that has expanded, you get rewarded. Also he states that although some say PA has some of the highest corporate tax rates in the country, they don't look at all the exemptions. He asserts its the mom & pops who pay while so many big businesses and donors get a free ride.

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