Pittsburgh missing $25 million, maybe

Could Pittsburgh’s finances be any more scandalously opaque? Yes!

Last year’s pension battle between Pittsburgh City Council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office has evolved into a $25 million mystery over how much money is available to buy police cars, pave roads and demolish old homes. . .

[City finance director Scott Kunka] said council’s 2011 budget — which diverted about $13.4 million in parking tax revenue to the foundering pension fund, the first installment in a controversial 30-year, $735.7 million bailout plan — provided no money for the capital fund.

He said the only capital money on hand is about $27 million earmarked for projects in past years but not yet spent. He said he’ll study the list of projects to see how much money might be redirected to meet this year’s needs. . .

Council’s budget director, Bill Urbanic, provided a different account.

In addition to the $27 million remaining from previously authorized projects, Mr. Urbanic said, the capital fund should hold about $25 million that’s not spoken for. He said the money was part of a large capital fund infusion the city made a few years ago and has been tapping annually since.

Mr. Kunka said that $25 million doesn’t exist and hinted that council might have to give up special projects . . . for more pressing initiatives. . .

Councilman William Peduto said council adopted a 2011 capital budget and that various documents reflect the money’s existence. He said the confusion highlights the urgent need for a new financial management system.

“When members of council can’t get information, then the public is kept in the dark, and it’s their money, not the mayor’s money,” Mr. Peduto said, suggesting the mayor’s office is hiding funds to give residents a skewed impression of the city’s finances and embarrass council members in an election year.

(Via That’s Church.)

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