In two hours of debate this afternoon, Pittsburgh City Council gave its first round of approvals to Mayor-elect Bill Peduto's city budget changes and offered a glimpse, perhaps, into the council coalition getting behind the new administration.
Peduto offered a couple dozen amendments to the city $480 million operating budget for next year that restructure the management of the mayor's office and some other city departments, set a new salary for the still-to-be hired police chief (he or she will be the highest-salaried city employee, making $2K more than the mayor and his chief of staff), and eliminate some positions, while creating others.
Eliminating jobs caused some friction, especially with Council President Darlene Harris and finance chair Ricky Burgess (both of whom supported Peduto's rival Jack Wagner in the mayoral primary). Burgess in particular repeatedly hammered the incoming mayor for making the budget changes, which would take effect Dec. 31, a week before he is officially sworn in.
"This is Christmastime. We should not be the Grinch and fire people," Burgess said.
Peduto's changes are revenue-neutral (he spends $55,000 less than Ravenstahl's 2014 budget) and clips some currently occupied jobs, though most are unfilled vacancies. Peduto stressed that he had to shuffle jobs around in order to budget for his administration's policy priorities, including housing development, planning, job training and performance-based management. Unlike federal or state budgets operating on a fiscal year starting July 1, the city's is calendar-based, forcing him into making the changes now, he argued. He also denied that he was firing anyone -- only budgeted positions were being changed or eliminated. (If covered by civil service protections, some of those whose jobs are eliminated should be able to demand other city jobs.)
"I'd love to be able to keep every position in the budget," Peduto said, "but we just can't do it. If something goes in, something has to come out."
Burgess and Harris both abstained from any Peduto amendments that included job cuts and councilman Daniel Lavelle was absent. Every other council member voted in favor, meaning the amendments passed 6-0. Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said it was important to assist the new administration's reorganization plans, and said "this head start is for the taxpayers and not necessarily us" on council.
Job openings in the new administration have been posted for three weeks at the foundation-backed Talent City website.
A list of the budget amendments approved today is here. A preliminary council vote on the overall 2014 city budget is set for Wednesday, followed by a final vote Monday.