Urban Redevelopment Authority Facing Massive Cuts in 2014

Dec 4, 2013

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority is facing massive cuts under Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s proposed 2014 budget.

At a City Council budget hearing on Tuesday, Robert Rubenstein, acting executive director of the URA, said he was disappointed with the proposed budget’s $2.2 million cut to the authority’s budget.

Rubenstein said the 33 percent decrease from last year’s budget “is going to negatively impact (our) ability … to advance initiatives in business districts, small businesses, in entrepreneurial support, in housing development, and in neighborhood revitalization in general.”

Rubenstein said he looks forward to working with City Council and the incoming administration to restore some of that funding.

He also said the URA owns approximately 1,400 parcels of land that are either for sale or are in some phase of development, and that a proposed 50 percent cut to that budget will have serious consequences.

“The sidewalks need to be kept clear of snow and ice; the grass needs to be cut,” Rubenstein said. “If there are buildings or structures, they need to be boarded up and secured. That doesn’t come free, there is an expense to that.”

Councilman Daniel Lavelle expressed concern over the fact that no money has been allocated for the Neighborhood Business and Economic Development division of the URA, which, according to the budget, “provides funding for various commercial districts and small business support programs.” In 2014, that portion of the URA had a budget of $900,000.

Lavelle said Mayor-elect Bill Peduto’s ideas for neighborhood revitalization cannot come to fruition under the current budget.

“The reality is, that sounds good, but unless we’re willing to commit the dollars to that, unless we’re willing to fund at those levels appropriate, that’s not really going to occur in any real … way,” Lavelle said.

Council Budget Director Bill Urbanic attributed much of the funding decrease to the fact that the URA no longer has any bond funds at its disposal. In 2013, the authority had more than $3.1 million in bond funds; Ravenstahl’s budget proposed restoring most of that funding in 2015.

“This year the amount of money that we’re utilizing is strictly PAYGO funds, there are no bond funds left to allocate,” Urbanic said. “There are some monies that may have the potential to be reallocated next year, and as you know, the capital budget stays open throughout the year.”