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Library, museums want RAD raise

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

With endowments battered by the stock market slump, Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Museums want a slightly larger slice of the sales-tax pie controlled by the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

Both organizations asked for 3 percent raises in 2003, while also promising to watch their spending, during presentations Monday to the seven-member RAD board.

Carnegie Library is requesting about $16 million, up from $15.6 million this year, while Carnegie Museums is seeking about $2.6 million, up from $2.5 million.

Those raises would be about double the growth in new sales tax collected by RAD this year, where receipts through July are up only about 1.7 percent compared to last year, board member Wesley Blaha said.

"There has been a significant decline in the market value of our endowment," said Ellsworth Brown, president of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. "Our endowment is 30 percent of our budget and the support is just not there." The museums include the Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History, Science Center and Andy Warhol Museum.

Brown told the RAD board that the museums are considering a budget cut of up to $3 million for next year. "We will have to reduce services somehow," he said.

Brown said after the meeting the $3 million figure is not final and that next year's budget will be adopted by the board in the fall.

Herb Elish, director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, said its endowment also has been hurt by declining stocks. To cut expenses, a hiring freeze was in effect from March to August, and cuts are planned in utilities and telecommunications with the goal of cutting expenditures by at least $1 million, Elish said.

Earlier this month, the Sports & Exhibition Authority put out a proposal for financing a new Penguins hockey arena that called for a 30-year commitment of RAD funds that would increase over time. That worries some nonprofit groups that rely on RAD support.

"You can do the math as well as I can," Brown said. "Significant support directed somewhere else would have to come from somewhere else."

Elish declined comment on the Penguins' proposal.

The libraries and the museums are among 10 groups — including county and city parks, the county Library Association, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the National Aviary — guaranteed a share of RAD funds through 2004 under a 10-year contract created when Allegheny County got state permission to add an additional 1 percent sales tax. Half of that goes to the asset district, while the other half goes to the county and municipal governments.

The RAD board will meet again Wednesday to review requests from contractual groups. Four meetings will be held in September for groups competing for annual grants. The board is scheduled to release its tentative budget Oct. 1 and its final budget Dec. 2.

RAD Director David Donohoe said 108 groups have applied for funding. This year, RAD will distribute $74.7 million, with 31 percent supporting libraries, 27 percent to parks, 22 percent to PNC Park and Heinz Field, 10 percent to the zoo, aviary and conservatory, and 9 percent to arts groups. Less than 1 percent goes to administration.

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