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Politics & Government

Pittsburgh Will Argue Monday for Removal from Act 47 Financial Oversight

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Pittsburgh is well-prepared to argue next week for its removal from state financial oversight, according to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

At a Monday afternoon meeting in the City Council Chamber, officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will hear why the city's administration believes Pittsburgh should be removed from Act 47 fiscal oversight. DCED Secretary Alan Walker will make the final decision on the city's fiscal independence.

"All that we'll do next week is tell the story of how Pittsburgh's balanced its budget, how we've paid down our debt, how we are dealing with our pension issues," said Ravenstahl. "We meet all the criteria that is [sic] necessary to be removed from Act 47."

Since 2003, Pittsburgh has adhered to fiscal guidelines imposed by a state-appointed oversight board, referred to as the Act 47 management team. A second panel, created by the Pennsylvania legislature, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA), also has oversight over the city's finances, but the ICA could remain even if Act 47 oversight is done away with in Pittsburgh.

Over the years, the state oversight boards have demanded that Pittsburgh fill its pension obligation fund at least halfway while paying down city debts. By cutting spending and dedicating parking tax revenue toward the pension fund, the city has managed to oblige.

The mayor said it's rare for municipalities to have the chance to be removed from Act 47 state financial oversight.  In the 25 years the program has existed, only six municipalities have emerged from state oversight.

"It would be a huge feather in the cap -- not just for the mayor's office, but for all the city workers that have sacrificed, for the taxpayers -- to have that cloud removed from us as a financially distressed city," said Ravenstahl.

Ravenstahl said the administration is "excited" that it was the Act 47 management team that recommended Pittsburgh's removal from fiscal oversight, and said he's hopeful that the DCED Secretary will agree.