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Nonprofits battle planned fund cuts from RAD

| Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

Nonprofit groups whose funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District would be slashed next year asked for more money Tuesday while supporters of two groups earmarked for raises asked for even more.

"We were shocked when we found out our funding was going to be zero," said Todd Owens, chairman of the board of Venture Outdoors.

Owens was one of 15 people who spoke about RAD's proposed $80.2 million budget for 2011 during a public hearing at the Regional Enterprise Tower, Downtown. RAD supports parks, libraries, stadiums and cultural groups with half of the proceeds of an additional 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County.

RAD funding would disappear next year for Venture Outdoors, RiverQuest and Saltworks Theatre Company. Venture Outdoors received $17,500 this year from RAD; RiverQuest, a river-based education program, $7,500; and Saltworks, $18,000.

"In its 15-year history, we have touched over 100,000 individuals in a way that changes their lives," said Jim Roddey, chairman of RiverQuest's board of directors.

Saltworks often performs plays with a social theme in schools. RAD Executive Director David Donahoe said RAD's Allocations Committee weighs how much access the public has to a cultural group, and Saltworks "has significantly changed its scope" by performing more often in schools.

As for Venture Outdoors, he said, "They made an appeal, and the board will consider it."

Susanne Parks, 41, of Lawrenceville urged increased funding to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to prevent the proposed closure of four city branches, including one in her neighborhood.

The library sought a $1.7 million increase, enough to close next year's deficit. RAD's proposed budget provides an increase of $352,000 to nearly $18 million.

She called the library "one of the only places you can go where your background — rich or poor — doesn't matter."

However, library critic David Tessitor, 49, of the North Side, said giving the Carnegie Library more money would compound RAD's error nine years ago in allowing the library system to use operating funds from RAD to help pay off the bonds for renovating branches.

J. Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, asked RAD to increase the proposed appropriation of $725,000 for the trust, which has a budget of about $50 million and reaches more than 2 million people a year. RAD gave the Cultural Trust $693,000 this year.

RAD's board is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget Nov. 30.

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