Controller says Pittsburgh's finances generally in good shape

Lamb says he's concerned about pension fund

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Controller Michael Lamb said the city is in good financial shape despite continued concerns about $1 billion in pension obligations, long-term debt and rising health care costs.

The city posted about $459 million in total expenditures, leaving a $20.8 million surplus for 2012, Mr. Lamb announced Thursday while releasing the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

The city's top three expenditures were public safety (52 percent), general government (16 percent) and highways and streets (14 percent).

Its top sources of tax revenue were real estate (35 percent), earned income (19 percent) and a tie between parking and payroll prep at 13 percent.

Mr. Lamb said the city collected $12 million more in revenue than projected from real estate and parking taxes, slot machines, an increased pension fund allotment from the state and a more aggressive delinquent tax collection program, noting that an uptick in the economy also contributed.

But despite the surplus, Mr. Lamb raised concerns about financial management, from the police bureau -- which led to federal indictments of former police chief Nate Harper -- to the bureau of building inspection and animal control. Federal investigators say Mr. Harper funneled $70,000 of city money into outside accounts.

The misappropriation of funds through the police bureau's special events office "is not material to the City's financial statements," Mr. Lamb wrote in the financial report. When asked about missing money in the special events office and records room, he said: "I think the question there is: 'are we 100 percent confident in the management and reporting of financial transactions?' I would have to say today that we are not."

Mr. Lamb said the controller's office, along with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, is working to make sure city funds are properly managed.

Also at issue was interest the city is paying on an $80 million loan geared toward capital projects. Mr. Lamb said only $17 million has been spent to date.

"We thought it was appropriate to phase it out over a period of time instead of spend it all at once," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "We'll spend it. We need it."

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Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman. Moriah Balingit contributed. First Published May 2, 2013 1:15 PM


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