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Programs vie for $98M in RAD grants

| Friday, July 20, 2012, 12:18 a.m.

Buoyed by a rise in local tax money this year, officials of sports, parks and cultural attractions have asked the Allegheny Regional Asset District for grants next year totaling $98 million.

“We did increase the budget last year. That is a signal to people that that is an opportunity for RAD to increase its support,” said David Donahoe, executive director of RAD.

Officials for programs are requesting about $3.4 million — or 3.6 percent — more than the $94.6 million they requested for 2012. The 101 applications for 2013 include 37 requests to improve a building or purchase equipment. Amounts being sought range from $2,100 for the North Hills Symphonic Band to nearly $22.6 million for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

RAD supports stadiums, libraries, parks and arts groups,with half of the proceeds from an additional 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County.

So far this year, the tax has generated $50.2 million for RAD — 5.4 percent ahead of what it received for the same period last year, Donahoe said. He noted that growth has slowed this month to 1.7 percent.

“That early-year growth gave it a bounce, but it's starting to go down,” he said.

Carnegie Library's request was $22.3 million for operations; the county libraries' digital infrastructure; and $250,000 to improve access for disabled patrons at branches.

The money would represent a 5 percent increase for daily operations and a 10 percent increase for the digital network, said library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes.

“We're still not at where we were many years ago when budgets were slashed,” she said.

The state cut funding to libraries across Pennsylvania by 20.8 percent in 2009-10 and 11 percent in 2010-11. State funding has been flat since then.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust gets $850,000 from RAD and is asking for $1.3 million for next year.

“We would hope if there is an opportunity for more money in general to be spread around, the Cultural Trust could receive a significant increase,” said President J. Kevin McMahon.

The trust also seeks $100,100 to upgrade a marquee, replace a roof, restore a fire curtain and provide an assisted-listening system — all at the Byham Theater, Downtown.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra asked RAD for $1.1 million for next year — $100,000 more than it gets now.

Symphony spokesman Jim Barthen said the state cut its funding from $2.25 million two years ago to zero now. He said RAD funding had been steady at $1 million since 2006.

The symphony has a deficit projected at $2.4 million this year, according to unaudited figures.

“The (RAD) increase will help that,” Barthen said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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