City to receive state gaming funds

Oversight board releasing $13.3 million

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The financially strapped city of Pittsburgh is getting a large down payment on the $22.3 million it says it's owed by the state -- but city council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office still are wrangling over this year's operating and capital budgets.

While the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority voted Thursday to turn over $13.3 million in gaming revenues from 2009 and 2010, the state-appointed oversight board also put restrictions on the money's use.

In February, Mr. Ravenstahl's office said the ICA was holding the gaming money hostage until the city moved to implement a new comprehensive financial management system. The mayor also complained that the state was dragging its feet on a 3-year-old pledge to purchase the Municipal Courts Building, Downtown, for $9 million -- the very money he said he was counting on to purchase the financial system.

On Thursday, the ICA agreed to turn over the gaming revenue, provided that $7.5 million is used for the financial system and the balance goes to pressing capital needs, such as street paving and purchase of public-safety vehicles.

"I think it's a fair compromise," said city finance director Scott Kunka.

There's no word on the $9 million for the Municipal Courts Building.

While Mr. Ravenstahl's office has been unhappy with the ICA and the state for sitting on city revenues, it also has accused council of passing a 2011 budget that provides inadequate operating revenues and no new capital dollars.

In a letter last week, Mr. Ravenstahl said the city might have to raise taxes or cut services to get through the year.

Council members said they passed a workable budget -- one that received the blessing of the ICA and a second state oversight board -- but noted that it hinges on new revenues from the city parking authority. They said Mr. Ravenstahl, who appoints authority board members, should direct the authority to generate additional revenue through moderate rate increases and turn over some of that money to the city.

"However, if your administration continues to delay the implementation of this plan, council cannot be held responsible for the reduction in city services and the increases in taxes ... ," Councilman Bill Peduto said in a letter to Mr. Ravenstahl.

Mr. Kunka, parking authority chairman, said council's plan to balance the budget with parking revenues amounted to "fairytale policy-making and voodoo mathematics." Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, a parking authority board member, can push the board to turn over more money to the city if that's the route council wants to go.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.


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