Pittsburgh cultural groups fear loss of RAD aid to help Port Authority
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Leaders of several cultural groups expressed concern Tuesday about the Allegheny Regional Asset District using $3 million in sales tax revenue to help bail out the cash-hungry Port Authority.
“We are greatly concerned about the precedent this would set,” said Kevin Hiles, chief financial officer of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which is slated to receive a $2.9 million operating grant in RAD's 2013 preliminary budget.
RAD supports “regional assets” with half of the proceeds of a supplemental 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County. Until now, money has gone to parks, libraries, stadiums and cultural groups.
“Does transit qualify? Sure, it's regional and it's an asset, but is that enough? That definition could include many things, (such as) roads, bridges and safety equipment,” said Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council CEO Mitch Swain during a public hearing on RAD's $88.5 million preliminary budget. RAD budgeted $60,000 for the arts council.
“If this (funding for Port Authority) occurs, then where does it stop?” Swain asked.
“We obviously respect the positions of the organizations who testified today, but we also believe that Port Authority is a public asset worthy of funding through the Regional Asset District,” Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said.
The preliminary budget includes $3 million for the Port Authority. Agency and county officials have said the money, along with $1.5 million from the county's drink tax, would help leverage $30 million from the state and help prevent sweeping service cuts and layoffs.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald wants a 10-year RAD funding guarantee. He did not immediately return a call for comment.
“Whether it's one year or 10 years, it presents an unprecedented challenge,” said Bill Powers, director of artistic operations at the Pittsburgh Opera, which RAD budgeted to give $140,000. Powers asked RAD for $150,000 in his presentation Tuesday.
“We all agree that transit is vital,” Powers said. “But we're hopeful that another resolution can be found.”
Helen Gerhardt of Pittsburghers for Public Transit said she supports using RAD money “to address this current year's transit funding crisis, but we understand that RAD funds are not a long-term solution,” calling increased state funding the answer.
Several Port Authority riders who spoke at the hearing also supported using RAD money, noting many people who attend RAD-sponsored events and venues rely on public transportation.
When Fitzgerald announced the funding plan in August, he said RAD was on pace to end the year with a $5 million surplus, based on sales receipts through the first half of the year — more than enough to cover Port Authority's request and still increase funding to other groups.
However, receipts have trailed off slightly since. Year-to-date sales tax revenue through October — from sales through August — is up 4.6 percent over the same period a year ago. At that rate, RAD would collect $3.8 million more than last year, or $87.5 million.
RAD Executive Director David Donahoe said his group will release the latest revenue figures next week.
The updated revenue figures, along with comments made Tuesday, could play a role in shaping RAD's final 2013 budget, scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 27, Donahoe said.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Patience pays off as starting pitcher Volquez gets 1st win for Pirates
- Panthers pulling weight for new strength coach
- Undersized rookie Gibbons is blur on ice for Penguins
- Pens insider: Penalty killing a concern in Stanley Cup playoffs
- Pirates should exploit free-swinging Brewers
- Body found on train tracks in West End
- Plum native Umberger inching closer to making return for Blue Jackets
- Greensburg high school roundup: Yough softball defeats Belle Vernon in 10 innings
- 4 dead in ‘horrific’ Armstrong County crash
- Penguins’ Bylsma and Blue Jackets’ Richards know each other well
- Daily News roundup: TJ edges Southmoreland in Section 3