Some on Pittsburgh City Council look for alternates to raising taxes

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Pittsburgh can and should find other ways to increase revenue or cut costs without raising taxes, several city council members said Thursday.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris held her own information-gathering meeting on the five-year fiscal recovery plan that state-appointed coordinators proposed because the city operates as a financially distressed municipality under the state’s Act 47. The plan, the third since the city entered financial distress in 2003, states that a property tax shortfall and rising pension costs will cause a $21 million deficit by 2018 and recommends a property tax increase. Mrs. Harris opposes raising property taxes to erase the projected deficit. Controller Michael Lamb and Councilwoman Deb Gross agree.

Mr. Lamb said he believes the city can save money if it controls spending, noting departments such as the police bureau are spending more than what is budgeted through the first half of the year.

Ms. Gross said the city has done a good job of rebuilding its economy from three decades ago when large manufacturing companies dominated the landscape, but the hospitals and universities that replaced those employers don’t generate nearly the same tax revenue because of their nonprofit status. She said council members are “doing our homework” to generate revenue from nonprofits or in other ways.

Mrs. Harris said she doesn’‍t understand why the city is still under Act 47 when the coordinators in 2012 said it could leave the program. Mayor Bill Peduto, after winning the Democratic primary last year, urged state officials to keep the city in the program so it could deal with long-term issues.

Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the plan on Tuesday. Approval would not commit the city to raising taxes.

Ed Blazina: or 412-263-1470.

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