In his first budget proposal, Gainey highlights spending on public works and infrastructure in 2023
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s first draft budget calls for more money to be spent on public works and infrastructure in 2023. The $657 million proposal calls for a 7% increase in spending over the year in progress, but does not envisage a tax increase.
Gainey unveiled a draft of his 2023 spending plan and a capital budget of $147 million at a downtown news conference on Friday. As in the current year’s budget, the city will rely on federal assistance from the American Rescue Plan to fund key areas. Gainey said his administration must prioritize spending money where it’s needed most.
“We can’t expect to achieve our entire vision in our first budget,” Gainey said. “It will take years to get there. But I have made it a priority that we will no longer put off critical investment in our basic public services.
To that end, Gainey proposes allocating an additional $4 million to the Department of Public Works in 2023. The increase will be used to bolster frontline staff and equipment. Gainey said he saw a critical need for new public works investment after spending time riding in snowplow trucks last winter. New truckers and laborers will also help the city maintain its vacant lots over the summer, Gainey said.
During public engagement sessions over the past few months, Gainey said most residents pointed to infrastructure as the city’s biggest problem. His plan would establish two new divisions within the Ministry of Mobility and Infrastructure: one for landslides and another for bridges.
The new bridge maintenance division will be able to implement recommendations expected in a report on the condition of 150 city-owned bridges due for completion later this month. The report should include recommendations for each bridge and prioritize structures that require priority attention.
“With the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsing less than 100 days after it went into operation, my administration learned firsthand of the critical investment that was needed for the city’s infrastructure,” Gainey said.
Dividing walls and slopes would allow the department to be “proactive” about landslides in the city, Gainey said. The steep hills, clay soil and narrow valleys of Pittsburgh make it a prime location for landslides, and climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem in years to come.
It is unclear whether the budget addresses concerns raised over the summer about chronic staff shortages at the Ministry of Mobility and Infrastructure. There were more than a dozen vacancies in the department according to a recent audit.
Gainey largely holds the line on public safety spending. His draft plan increases the city’s police budget by $3.5 million, but calls for no additional officers. The city has budgeted for 900 officers for years, though its actual strength is less than that total. The 2023 budget calls for the same size force, and Gainey has pledged to recruit officers to fill vacancies with two new classes planned for next year.
An ongoing study of police staffing needs in Pittsburgh may require a different number of officers. But according to Jake Pawlak, director of the Office of Management and Budget, these recommendations will not be considered until the 2024 budget.
Gainey’s 2023 plan calls for six new paramedics, as well as upgraded police cameras and water rescue equipment.
The city would also spend $300,000 on a new plan to bring public spaces into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the capital budget, $54 million is earmarked for engineering and construction projects, $43 million would go to improving facilities, and $17 million would cover a new training center for the Department of City public safety.
The spending plan also reflects structural changes to some departments.
“Our budget is both an investment in improving central city services and improving the efficiency of local government,” Gainey said, announcing a plan to move some city functions to new areas. new departments.
For example, the city’s non-emergency 311 line will be moved to the mayor’s office, under the Neighborhood Services Office. Gainey said the move comes after feedback from residents. The Mayor’s communications team would absorb communications staff from other departments, as well as City Channel and website staff.
Similarly, the city council’s budget would increase by $3.3 million, although this reflects the fact that it will absorb the city clerk’s office, which had been budgeted separately. The city council increased its staff over the summer to better connect community groups to economic, educational and social services.
Gainey stressed that his office will continue to seek public comment on the 2023 plan over the coming weeks. He will officially present the preliminary budget to the city council on November 14. The council will then begin its own public engagement process, complete with a series of budget hearings, before amending and adopting the budget. The process should be completed by the end of the year.