The Allegheny County Regional Asset District (RAD) is including $3 million in funding for the Port Authority in its proposed budget as a provisional grant. The preliminary $88.5 million budget includes 95 separate grants to 85 organizations, plus the provisional grant that is to be considered by the full board.
“If all of the measures are adopted the 2013 budget will be a 2.5 percent increase from the 2012 budget and the largest allocation in RAD history,” said board member Stanley Parker.
The PAT funding is needed to close a budget gap and secure additional state funding. The governor agreed to come up with $30 million as long as PAT agreed to trim costs. Local 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union agreed to $15 million in concessions and management came up with another $10 million in cuts. That left the county needing to secure $4.5 million, and only two sources of funding: the property tax and the drink tax.
“We have a drink tax right now that’s at 7 percent and we think we can add another million and a half dollars to get you to that 4.5, but absent of that we have no more money to provide,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, “we thought the $3 million figure coming from RAD for a couple of reasons, one I can’t think of a bigger public asset we have than public transit.”
Plus, Fitzgerald said a strong public transportation system allows the county to continue to grow the economy. He argued that if cuts are made to PAT service, that will hurt increases in RAD funding. He said he is committed to working with state and local officials to look for other means of funding, but added none have identified yet.
While most of the public speakers, including Fitzgerald, support RAD funding for PAT, a couple of speakers were opposed, including a former board member who said awarding funds to PAT would go against years of board precedent.
“There have been many requests from public service organizations of urgent need of additional funding, but because of our mandate to support the cultural assets of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, their requests have been denied, the Port Authority’s request must also be denied on the same grounds, it is a service, not a cultural asset,” said Herman Jones Jr.
RAD’s website describes the organization this way: “The mission of RAD is to support and finance regional assets in the areas of libraries, parks and recreation, cultural, sports and civic facilities and programs.”
If the plan is ultimately adopted it would allocate 35 percent of the funding to libraries, 30 percent to regional parks and trails, and 16 percent to regional sports facilities and the convention center.
“10 percent to arts organizations, and eight percent to regional facilities including the zoo, Phipps and Aviary. Transit, proposed as a new category, would receive 3 percent of the budget. Less than one percent goes to administration,” said Stanley Parker.
The full budget plan is supported by an estimated $85.5 million in sales tax revenues, with the balance coming from reserve funds. The decision on the $3 million provisional grant to PAT must be decided by the full board, and will be voted on after public comment is taken. A public hearing on the budget plan is scheduled for October 30th at the County Courthouse.