Are Pittsburgh’s Shovels Ready?

Following the directive of CB01 of the 2009 recovery plan and section 508 of the City’s Home Rule Charter, a City Councilman today introduced legislation that would create a six year capital improvement program for the City. The program would create a committee to select and oversee capital projects, the sources and uses of capital revenues and expenditures, and generally how to manage the infrastructure needs that include 2.3 million square feet of facility space and 900 miles of roadway.

The critical question becomes how to pay for those needs. In order to avoid taking on additional long-term debt (the Act 47 plan notes that "Pittsburgh continues to face a debt crisis" and per person it amounts to more than $2,200 but current debt is to be retired in 2024) much of the City’s capital needs have been met on a pay as you go basis out of current revenues, other state and Federal funds (including stimulus money) for an annual capital expenditure of $59.6 million in FY09. Actual City contributions (not counting state and Federal) were low in comparison with other cities like Cincinnati and Toledo.

At the time the Act 47 team recommended that money from freezing the parking tax at 37.5% be set aside for capital, but that has been dedicated to pensions via Act 44. The time frame for the City to identify a method of funding capital needs is coming in the 2013 fiscal year when the plan expires.