Pittsburgh can teach a thing or two to world leaders at its G-20 Conference

As the leaders of the world's largest economies gather in Pittsburgh for the G-20 Conference, they might want to look out of the windows of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to learn how a cash-strapped city is making the best of a tough economic environment. Pittsburgh is about $720 million in debt -- a lot of red ink for a city with a population of just 311,218 (down from 424,000 in 1980), which ranks below Toledo.

Pennsylvania took control of Pittsburgh's budget in 2003, mandating spending cuts and tax increases. Though Pittsburgh does have an operating budget surplus today, it still has $1.3 billion in legacy costs, including $899 million owed to its pension fund, according to Bloomberg News.