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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The 2010 census reported the population at 305, 704, while the seven-county metropolitan area is 2,356,285. Pittsburgh is county seat of Allegheny County and anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia. It is the 22-largest area in the United States. Historically, the city was known for its steel industry, but today its economy is largely based in healthcare, education, technology and financial services.

The city often claims “most livable city” titles, including recent awards by Randy McNally (2007), Forbes (2010), and The Economist (2011).[1]


  • The 2011 operating budget was approximately $456 million. Of this, the largest expenditures were benefits (32%), public safety (29.5%), debt (19.5%), other government (12%) and public works (7%). Of employee benefits, the overall $133 million, 40% is allocated to healthcare, 38% to pensions and 16% to unemployment compensation. Between 2003-2010, pension costs increased by 85%.[2]
  • The city pension funding ratio was down to 27 percent, when funding for pensions are recommended to be at 80 percent. As a result the city is selling its parking garage and meters for $300 million, to keep the state from seizing its pension funds. The sale will also increase the pension funding ration to 50 percent. Additionally, the city is facing $80 million in debt payments annually, put the city into a real financial crisis.[3]


Pittsburgh received $348,726,152.91 in federal stimulus funding through 428 grants and contracts.

Public employee salaries

See also: Pittsburgh employee salaries


See also: Pennsylvania public pensions

Pension costs increased from 2003-2010 85%, by over $10 million last year alone. The city reports that over the past six years, the MMO has increased by $30 million, while state aid has decreased by $3 million.[4]

In 2010, Pittsburgh had to raise approximately $220 million in assets in its retirement plan to cover 50% of the plan’s obligations by Dec. 31 to avoid a state takeover of the pension fund pursuant to state law.[5] At the time, the city’s retirement plan covered 28% of the assets necessary to cover its obligations.[5] The state takeover would compel Pittsburgh to make the payments needed to assure pensions for 8,000 active and retired employees.[5] On Nov. 4, 2010, the state's actuary informed the Pittsburgh city council that, if the state takes over the Pittsburgh pension fund, the city will be forced to pay about $3.6 billion over the next 30 years to ensure the fund's solvency.[6][5]

By 2011, the city met its goals by increasing parking garage and meter fees and direct that money into the pension fund.[7]

Local taxes

In 2011, real estate taxes accounted for 29% of the revenue collected, parking taxes 10%, earned income tax 16%, payroll preparation tax 10%, and other taxes 9% of the $456 million in revenue.

Website evaluation

Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials P
Administrative Officials P
Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying N
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Public Records Y
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Local Taxes Y
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Transparency grading process

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for over 15 years.[8]
  • Administrative officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[9]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and contact forms.
  • Elected officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and contact form.[10]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 12 years.
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 12 years.
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[11]
    • Meeting videos are available.[12]
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2001 are available.[13]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[14]
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[15]
  • Public records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the Open Records Officer. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[16]
    • A public records form is provided.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[17]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.[18]
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[19]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[20]

The bad

  • Elected officials
    • Personalized emails addresses are not provided for city council members.
  • Administrative officials
    • Personalized emails addresses are not provided.
  • Lobbying
    • No information on membership in lobbying associations.

External links