City Council Monday held a hearing with Budget Director Bill Urbanic. The takeway: The city is doing OK, but it could do better. Urbanic said the city’s margin between revenues and expenditures is “razor thin.”
“We’ve addressed many of the underlying problems in the last few years, with the help of Act 47 oversight,” Urbanic said. “The 2014 budget shows we’re staying balanced, as usual, but revenue is still going to be an issue, now and into the near future. We need at least $20 million annually.”
As with many discussions about city revenue, the conversation quickly turned to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Urbanic suggested that a payroll tax on nonprofit organizations could help the city rake in as much as $23 million in additional revenue annually.
“There may be a way to be able to do that, at least for the larger organizations, if they can help on that end,” Urbanic said. “I think we’ll see a lot of these problems taken care of if we continue to walk down that path. Maybe in cooperation, maybe not, maybe the lawsuits are the right way to go.”
Urbanic said he wants to see more money put into the city’s PAYGO, or pay-as-you-go fund for capital investments.
“The need for capital expenditures still exceeds the available resources for paving, vehicle replacements, demolition of condemned buildings,” Urbanic said. “They are in a perpetual backlog.”
The budget director said smart investment in capital projects will save the city money in the long run. For example, the city’s plan to accept credit cards in all departments will likely increase revenues, but in the short term that will require an investment in new point of sale systems. Making an effort to tear down dilapidated structures will save the fire department money over time.
“I believe we’re at a precipice,” Urbanic said. “We’re at an era where we actually have an opportunity to change the city for the better. In order to do that, we do need to make the investments, and we need the revenue to do that.”