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Monday, August 27, 2012

Arts group formulates talking points on transit rescue plan

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Missed this dispatch in our Friday-afternoon fugue state last week, but for those who are curious about how the arts world is reacting to plans to shore up local transit by using Regional Asset District dollars, here's a hint. Late in the day on Friday, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council sent out an "Advocacy Alert" about the proposal, letting arts groups know how the council plans to respond to media queries about the proposal.

While asserting that "We value a strong transit system," the memo adds, "We're concerned about the use of RAD funds [for] transit." The memo worries about the "precedent" that may be established if the proposal "redefines the word 'regional asset' in a way that could be applied to many municipally- or county-owned projects.

"During the past four years, other sources of government funding, ticket sales, memberships, corporate sponsorships, and individual donations have become unstable," the memo adds. "There are capital needs that have been deferred and very serious operating shortfalls that threaten even the oldest and strongest of our nonprofit institutions. RAD grantees have been waiting patiently for the return of increased sales tax receipts."

Some of its talking points are similar to concerns outlined in a Post-Gazette op-ed piece today; others were anticipated in previous coverage here, and may surface elsewhere in the days ahead. In any case, it's pretty clear that at least some portions of the arts community had their own plans for that $3 million a year.

Full text of the memo below the jump:

RAD Funding Proposed as a Part of Public Transit Solution

Informational Update

According to recent news reports, the County Executive will be submitting a funding request to the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) board for approximately $3 -$3.5 million annually for ten years. GPAC has been following this situation closely to understand its implications for the arts and culture organizations who rely on RAD funding.

News reporters are calling RAD grantees for comment, and the following are talking points that we will be using to address the situation:

  • We value a strong transit system. We appreciate the County Executive’s leadership in working towards a long term solution to an issue that is important to us all.
  • The RAD funding structure shared by parks, recreation, libraries, and arts and culture is a national model that has served the county well. During the past four years, other sources of government funding, ticket sales, memberships, corporate sponsorships, and individual donations have become unstable and, in some cases, disappeared entirely. There are capital needs that have been deferred and very serious operating shortfalls that threaten even the oldest and strongest of our nonprofit institutions. RAD grantees have been waiting patiently for the return of increased sales tax receipts.
  • We’re concerned about the use of RAD funds as a contributor to the long term solution to transit. It represents a new direction in the use of RAD funds. Currently, of the 1% additional sales tax revenue in Allegheny County, approximately 50% goes to RAD, 25% goes to municipal governments, and 25% goes to Allegheny County government. Funding transit through RAD represents a dangerous precedent, as it redefines the word "regional asset" in a way that could be applied to many municipally- or county-owned projects and concerns, which already receive funding from the 1% tax stream.
  • According to RAD, historically, its sales tax revenues increase by a rate of 2.8% a year. Based on averages, a multi-year year request of $3 -$3.5 million per year will cause a decrease in overall available funding.

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