PITTSBURGH---At a public meeting today, the Board of the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) authorized an historic 25th budget: at $108.6 million for 2019, it is the first adopted budget over $100 million in RAD’s history. “This is positive testimony to both the growth in the region’s economy—and our region’s commitment to invest in our many valued assets,” said Daniel J. Griffin, RAD Board Chair. “We look forward to spending time in our 25th year reflecting on the vital role the regional assets play in our area, and the growth that has taken place with the public investment since RAD’s inception. We’re excited about our new 25th anniversary impact grant project, This is RAD!, which will shine a spotlight on bold, forward-looking projects that demonstrate the creative ability of RAD assets to inspire the region for the next 25 years.”
The final recommendation for 2019 is $73,000 higher than the preliminary budget released in September, and is $8.5 million higher than the 2018 budget. The 2019 budget will provide grants to 104 organizations, retain nearly all of the operating and capital grants proposed in the preliminary budget, and add funding for operating and capital improvements at both small- and medium-sized arts and culture organizations.
According to the Allocations Committee that recommended the final budget, “The first budget passed in 1995 provided $53 million in grants to 46 organizations. Comparatively, our 2019 budget is over $108 million with grants to 104 organizations. Our region can be proud of the significant growth we’ve experienced since then, and that we have outstanding libraries, parks, sports and civic facilities, arts and cultural organizations that help make our region the success that it is today.”
Highlights of the 2019 budget include:
- Increased operating grants to 83 of the region’s cultural and recreational assets. The hallmark of RAD funding (unrestricted operating grants) can be used for all of the basics, like staff, rent and utilities.
- Grants to four new or returning assets: Assemble|A Community Space for Arts + Technology, Bulgarian National Education & Cultural Center (prior recipient), Rachel Carson Homestead, and The Holocaust Center.
- $947,000 in increased support for libraries
- nearly $3.4 million in new capital funds for projects at regional parks and trails
- $800,000 to the Sports and Exhibition Authority for a multi-facility capital improvement fund
- $835,000 in capital grants for major projects at the Zoo, Phipps and Aviary, along with capital grants to 24 other assets for facility, accessibility, infrastructure and equipment
“It’s important to know that in reviewing requests each year, every application is evaluated on its own merits, using a wide range of criteria including governance, finances, diversity, accessibility, programming and impact on the community in Allegheny County,” said Mr. Griffin. “It is always a challenge to raise resources, but we’re confident that this budget reflects a responsible public commitment to a diverse group of assets that make our community a thriving one.”
The 2019 budget will be funded by an estimated $101.5 million in new sales tax receipts, with the balance coming from the District’s grant stabilization fund. Under the plan, libraries receive 31% of funds; parks and trails 31%; sports facilities and the convention center 13%; arts and cultural organizations 13%; and regional facilities (the Zoo, Phipps and Aviary) 8%; and transit would see 3% of the spending. Funding for District operations would remain at under 1% of budget. More than 60% of RAD funding supports libraries and parks, places which are free and open to the public.
By the end of 2018, the local 1% sales tax, paid by residents of and visitors to Allegheny County, will have resulted in a nearly $3.8 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.
RAD is responsible for providing grants from one-half of the sales tax revenue. Since 1995, and by the end of 2018, RAD has provided $1.89 billion in operating and capital grants to more than 100 diverse organizations. That sum includes $89 million in capital grants for parks maintenance, repairs and new projects; trails improvements; and discretionary projects like accessibility, critical infrastructure and equipment. RAD funds have also made possible special collaborations among assets that have contributed to budget savings and audience development.