FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2021
Contact: Kirstin Snow
Pittsburgh, PA — The Pittsburgh Budget and Policy Center today released a preliminary response to Mayor Peduto’s proposed $770 million combined operating and capital budget for 2022 with no tax increases, unveiled September 30th. This analysis and a forthcoming more detailed analysis aim to inform the Pittsburgh budget process this calendar year and actions by a new mayor and city council in 2023 to revisit the 2022 budget and the city’s plan for spending $335 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars.
The Pittsburgh BPC analysis found that the mayor, city council, and the city’s Recovery Task Force all agree that the city’s budget and use of ARP funds should make equity a priority. This agreement reflects wide awareness of longstanding inequities in Pittsburgh based on race, gender, and income and recognition that the pandemic exacerbated these inequities.
Despite this agreement, the Pittsburgh BPC found that a lack of budget transparency and detail makes it hard to evaluate how well the proposed budget, like the distribution of federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars approved by City Council this summer, would achieve short- and long-term equity goals.
Some key elements of the budget show little shift from earlier years and priorities. For example, the proposed $120 million police budget would be the highest since Mayor Peduto took office and a 4.6% ($5.2 million) increase from the final 2021 police budget. Six percent of the police budget would go to the Office of Community Health and Safety to address community needs through social services.
Despite a long-term affordable housing shortage in the city and the potential of a wave of evictions, the proposed 2022 budget increases funds by only 1% for affordable housing funding from the city’s own revenues. The city has received federal funds for emergency rental relief to address eviction issues. It has also allocated some of the city’s ARP allocation to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which manages the city’s major affordable housing initiatives.
Author of the analysis Nthando Thandiwe said, “It is critical that the city not miss a historic opportunity to use ARP dollars and the next several city budgets to both address immediate needs and to reduce long-term gender, racial and economic inequities. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to create a more just Pittsburgh.”
One positive note highlighted in today’s Pittsburgh BPC analysis is that the city can revisit the allocation of (unspent) ARP dollars in future years. Whatever the outcome of this year’s budget process, a new city council and mayor will have the opportunity to achieve more community engagement and transparency in city budgeting. “More community input and buy-in are powerful assets for increasing opportunity and equity in the steel city.”