Substantial Investment in the Region’s Quality of Life
By the end of 2015, the local 1% sales tax, paid by residents of and visitors to Allegheny County, resulted in a nearly $3.2 billion investment in the region’s public libraries and parks, museums, cultural organizations, major regional facilities, and local municipal services such as police and roads.
The impact of the $3.2 billion investment in the region is substantial.
Sustained and Enhanced Assets
District grants have clearly met Act 77’s goals of sustaining and enhancing the regional assets.
Libraries have received 31% of the grant funding, parks 29%, sports and civic facilities 19%, regional facilities (PIttsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, National Aviary) 10%, arts and culture 10%, and transportation (less than one percent). Overall, 60% of District funds have gone to places that are free to the public.
The hallmark of district grants is unrestricted operating funds. RAD operating grants to assets can be used for all of the basics, like staff, utilities and maintenance. Since 1995, the District has also awarded $56.5 million in capital grants for projects like accessibility, critical infrastructure and equipment. RAD funds also have made possible special collaborations among assets that have contributed to budget savings and audience development.
The funding program is diverse and has included nearly 150 different assets located throughout the county. Demographic reports show that users of regional assets come from all over the county and region.
See a full listing of RAD grants since 1995.
By many standards - programs, materials, leveraged financing, attendance, circulation - libraries are in significantly better condition today than in 1994. Because of cooperation between RAD, the Allegheny County Library Association, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, a patron, remarkably, needs only one library card to use in any library in Allegheny County. Geographical and virtual boundaries are now non-existent when it comes to library services. Since RAD, support for libraries county-wide has increased by 70%, exceeding the growth in sales tax revenue during that time.
- By the end of 2015, libraries will have received nearly $500 million in District funds.
- $133 million has been allocated for suburban libraries – funding that simply did not exist prior to 1995.
- In addition, the District has invested $19.6 million directly in additional ACLA funds for the electronic information network (eiN) the which links all member libraries and Bookmobiles, and provides a shared catalogue, databases and other electronic communication on-line. Some 2,200 personal computers have been linked at over 75 sites.
- Carnegie Library’s $14 million RAD-backed bond issue jump-started a now $55 million capital improvement plan. The RAD Board extended the District’s commitment to CLP to make possible the bond issue.
- Capital improvements throughout the county include accessibility projects like elevators, automated entrance doors and ramps, HVAC system improvements, roof repairs, exterior renovations and building expansions.
- Libraries have eliminated non-resident card fees.
- Seven new faciliities have opened including a new regional facility (Northern Tier in Pine-Richland), and new branches in Scott and Robinson.
By the end of 2015, parks and trails will have received more than $460 million in funds.
District funds support 15,267 acres that include a mixture of natural settings, picnic areas, recreational facilities and fields. Five of the City of Pittsburgh’s parks qualify as regional parks under the District Act. Allegheny County operates nine regional parks, and the City of McKeesport operates Renziehausen Park. Upper St. Clair Twp operates the Boyce-Mayview Regional Park, and Avonworth Municipal Authority operates Avonworth Community Park. The District also funds trails through the Allegheny Land Trust which represents eight incorporated nonprofit organizations and several municipalities that sponsor individual trails.
The trails provide no-cost scenic recreational opportunities through the County. RAD funds have created or improved more than 91 miles of trails since 1995. In 2015, RAD funds will bse used by Friends of the Riverfront for a new trail on the Allegheny River, and by the Regional Trail Corporation to resurface 12 trail miles in Elizabeth and Lincoln Boros.
Capital improvement projects include: sidewalks, wall and step repairs, playground safety improvements, accessible bathrooms and park shelters, improved bathrooms throughout the park system, lake dredging, paving, shelter rood replacement, electrical distribution system upgrades, landscaping renovations, and tennis court rehabilitation.
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Phipps Conservatory, National Aviary and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center comprise the regional facilities category of RAD funding. By the end of 2015, regional facilities have received more than $154 million funds, or 10% of total grants.
Since RAD, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the National Aviary, and Phipps Conservatory have been able to privatize and as a result have seen significant growth.
- Attendance is up significantly from 1994-2013: 58% at the Pittsburgh Zoo; 230% at Phipps Conservatory; 85% at the National Aviary.
- Earned income has increased significantly from 1994-2013: Pittsburgh Zoo – 293%; Phipps Conservatory – 1048%; National Aviary – 583%.
- From 2013-2015, the District has funded $2.38 million in capital improvements at the regional facilities, including office and exhibit renovations at the National Aviary, glass replacement at Phipps Conservatory, and roof repairs, restroom and exhibit renovations at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
- Capital improvements in the past have included HVAC, fire and safety improvements at the Aviary; parking enlargement, animal care facilities, escalator repairs, renovation to the plaza and lighting improvements at Pittsburgh Zoo; back-up heating and display room ventilation at Phipps Conservatory.
In addition, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center received $5.7 million in operating and capital support from 2007-2010, and continues to receive support through the Regional Destination Financing Plan bond issue.
Grants support debt service on a $176 million bond issue that provides local public funds for the construction of PNC Park and Heinz Field. The District is also contributing to the retirement of the debt on the old arena as part of the new arena project. Since 1995, sports and civic facilities, including the Convention Center, have received 19% of RAD grants, or about $306 million. Public benefits from District involvement include:
- Establishment of a fixed cost for public involvement that is geared toward capital costs. This strategy removes taxpayers from any obligations to pay for the operating costs of the stadiums (costs that fluctuate).
- Shifted the public finance burden to a broader market of people who attend and enjoys sporting and other events. Prior to 1995, public financing of Three Rivers Stadium was shouldered exclusively by City of Pittsburgh taxpayers.
- Leveraged funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (one-third of the total project cost).
- Helped preserve a long-term commitment of the valuable sports franchises.
Arts & Culture
On a per capita basis, the District is one of the most important local public funders of arts and culture in the country.
- By the end of 2015, cultural and arts organizations will have received $157 million in funds, or 10% of total grants.
- District grants increased from $3.4 million in 1995, to $10.1 million in 2015, a 197% increase.
- Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Military Museum became an independent, non-profit organization in 2000.
- For 2015 alone, RAD will provide $1.1 million in capital grants at arts and culture organizations for a wide variety of projects including safety improvements, and roof and HVAC repairs and replacements.
- Capital improvements in the past have included: accessibility projects, fire safety system improvements, building repairs, stage lighting systems, computer systems, sound systems, film editing systems, construction of Freedom Corner Monument; new exhibit space at Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania; seat replacement at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Regent Square Theater; office equipment; a building security system; recording studio equipment; acoustic shells; glass-making equipment; translation system; computer box office system; roof repair and upgrading of exhibits.
Transit became a RAD-funded category for the first time in 2013 with a $3 million grant to the Port Authority of Allegheny County. This grant leveraged $21 million in additional state funding, and got 62 million riders to work as well as to cultural and recreational facilities and events.
The District has maximized grants by minimizing administrative costs which total about 0.7% of tax revenues, less than the one-percent allowed by law.
Accountability is stressed through independent audits, public access to meetings and records, and staff and Board site visits totaling more than 1600 in the past 13 years.