Pittsburgh Finances a Mixed Bag in 2011

May 1, 2012

Pittsburgh ended its 2011 fiscal year with a $20 million surplus, but Controller Michael Lamb warned the city isn't likely to end up with so much extra money this year.

In an annual financial report released Tuesday, Lamb said Pittsburgh only ran a surplus last year because the city was given an unusual boost from one-time revenue sources.

"We had a ten million dollar increase to our pension funding from the state last year. That was a one time thing, and last year we also took in about ten or eleven million dollars in gaming revenue that was actually revenue from the year before," said Lamb. Without those infusions, Lamb said the city would have run a slight deficit in 2011.

There was some good news: Lamb said Pittsburgh increased its fund balance over the course of the year, and the city's taxes are hauling in more money.

However, employee costs continue to outpace the growth in tax revenue. Lamb suggested the city administration should look into self-insurance for Pittsburgh employees as a way to cut costs.

"An organization of 3,100 employees and pensioneers on top of that — are we really the right kind of organization to be fully insured?" asked Lamb.

The Controller also noted the city's not doing as much with its budget as Council and the Mayor had hoped.

"Our budgetary goal was to have 900 police officers; we don't have close to 900 police officers," said Lamb. "Our budgetary goal was to do 600 demolitions a year; we did less than 500 last year. We are balanced on paper, but we've got significant problems that we're not meeting our budgetary goals."

Lamb said the core problem of Pittsburgh finances remains the same: employee costs like healthcare and pensions are rising, while the city continues to lose population.

Overall, the city brought in roughly $560.4 million in revenue in 2011, while spending about $538.8 million.