After nine years at the helm, Harvey Rice retired from his position as PICA's Executive Director this fall. We asked our new Executive Director Marisa Waxman a few questions about her approach to her new role.
Q: You're new to PICA, but not to the world of public finance. How have your previous roles prepared you for the Executive Director role at PICA?
A: Early in my career, at the Philadelphia City Controller's Office and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to dig into Philadelphia's fiscal practices, research best practices, and make recommendations to improve the City's financial condition. Later, I had the opportunity to serve in local government, in Philadelphia and New York City, including as Philadelphia's Budget Director. Those positions gave me first-hand experience managing operations designed to maintain and enhance fiscal stability. Now at PICA, I'll be able to draw on those experiences as we work to ensure a positive financial future for Philadelphia.
Q: Philadelphia's fund balance is higher than ever, and revenues have largely recovered from the shock of the pandemic. What are your biggest concerns for the City's fiscal stability in the coming years?
A: Philadelphia has made tremendous strides since PICA was created and is in much better shape -- but the City cannot afford to be less vigilant when it comes to safeguarding its fiscal stability. In just over a year, federal funds granted in response to COVID-19 will need to be expended and the City needs to be prepared to proceed without those resources. The City also needs to identify its financial goals and chart a clear path to achieving them. Similar to how the City identified a timeline and course of action to increase the funded level of the Pension Fund, the City can set goals related to achieving structural balance each year, setting a target share of the budget allocated to fixed costs, or the desirable level for the Budget Stabilization Reserve.
Q: In its first 30 years of existence, PICA helped pull Philadelphia out of fiscal crisis and enter a new phase of fiscal stability despite challenges brought on by the Great Recession and COVID-19 Pandemic. In 2022, PICA's statutory authority was renewed and extended through at least 2047. How do you envision PICA continuing its work to bolster Philadelphia's fiscal stability going forward?
A: In its second phase, PICA will continue to be both a thought partner and a guiderail for the City of Philadelphia. The PICA Board will evaluate the Five-Year Financial Plan each year and determine whether to approve it. PICA Staff will continue to monitor the City's finances on an ongoing basis and check to make sure that there isn't a variance from the approved Plan. PICA will identify factors that may have an impact on the City's finances and provide insights and guidance on how the City can navigate challenges and leverage opportunities. One of those opportunities may be using PICA's new borrowing authority to finance priority investments at a lower cost than the City could achieve on its own.