The City of Pittsburgh's annual finance report for 2018 was released on Wednesday and it showed that the city had an uptick in employment and gave out less parking tickets.
At an afternoon news conference to announce the release of the Consolidated Annual Financial Report, City Controller Michael Lamb said the local services tax increased by $1.5 million. The local services tax is a $52 flat rate fee that every employee who works in the city pays, whether or not they live in the city. Basic arithmetic would suggest that the city added 28,000 jobs -- a stunningly high number that Lamb himself discounted. He said his office is looking into the final numbers.
But in any case, he said, "For the first time [in years], we see a bump" in revenue from the tax. "We're seeing job growth here in the city."
Overall, the city ended the year with a $3.3 million surplus. That's much smaller than the $26 million surplus of the year before: Lamb attributed the decline to the city using the extra money to pay for capital projects. In general, the financial picture looked strong -- Lamb said the city was on "good financial footing" -- with the city continuing to pay down its once-daunting debt.
There was a $2 million decrease in revenue from parking tickets in 2018, Lamb said. He said that was likely owed to people doing a better job of keeping the meter fed thanks to the use of a city parking app.
"We now have these apps that allow people to remotely up their time on meters," he said. "So there's been a better compliance rate than we've had in the past. That's good news, but it does affect our revenue."
On the flip side, Lamb said there has been an increase in revenue coming from the meters, and in the parking tax revenue, which collects taxes from private lots and garages.
Lamb's one piece of bad news is that due to fluctuations in the stock market, the city's pension fund lost around $20 million last year, down from nearly $450 million at the end of 2017. The market closed 2018 with a series of disastrous trading days in September. But that trend has since reversed itself, Lamb said.
"Not only have we recovered that money, but we actually are beyond that high point," he said. "We're now at around $463 million now."