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Ravenstahl administration announces $440 million budget |

Ravenstahl administration announces $440 million budget

Aides to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today released a $440 million budget, which would increase Pittsburgh’s contribution to its anemic pension fund, cut unfilled positions and avoid a tax increase.

The spending plan calls for cutting 65 unfilled jobs in the city’s 3,200-employee work force and converting 40 police desk jobs into patrol positions. The plan does not contain a tax increase.

Ravenstahl missed a news conference today to announce the budget because he is ill and plans to visit a doctor, a spokeswoman said. Chief of Staff Yarone Zober and Finance Director Scott Kunka released the budget proposal instead.

Due to delays in construction of a North Shore casino, the proposed budget relies on $2.4 million in local gambling revenues, down from the state’s original projection of $5.3 million. Still missing is an expected three-year commitment from a group of nonprofits known as the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund. The tentative budget calls for $4.3 million a year, beginning in 2009, from the group.

Kunka said he’s confident the commitment from the nonprofits will materialize, but he can’t be sure of the amount. The balanced budget plan depends on the nonprofits’ contributions because revenues outpace expenditures by about $3.5 million.

Zober said he believes City Council and state financial overseers will approve.

“This is a structurally balanced budget,” he said. “It would be very hard for someone to look at this budget and say it’s not a responsible thing to do.”

The city is anticipating a $93.4 million surplus by the end of the year, but that fund balance is expected to erode in 2011 and 2012.

Zober said the surplus was created to deal with the deficit spending expected in two years.

Ravenstahl submitted the 2009 budget and five-year spending plan Monday to the state oversight board, formally known as the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. The city is required to submit the budget to the board under the terms of its state-guided financial recovery plan.

Gov. Ed Rendell declared Pittsburgh a financially distressed municipality in December 2003 when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy.

The five-member ICA board has 30 days to request changes to Ravenstahl’s proposed budget before the mayor presents it to City Council on Nov. 10.

The ICA must vote to approve the budget.

“We are confident that we have met or exceeded their expectations,” Kunka said of the city’s financial overseers.

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