PITTSBURGH—The Allegheny Regional Asset District today released a 2019 preliminary budget, including recommendations for operating grants, capital grants, and a special $2.5 million fund for new projects in honor of RAD’s 25th anniversary, a year notable for the deep and substantial impact RAD has had on the region. The preliminary budget takes the form of a report by the Allocations Committee and contains recommendations for a record $108.5 million, with grants to 104 organizations. If adopted, the 2019 budget would be 8.5% higher than 2018.
Twenty-five years ago, the Pennsylvania Legislature said that a dedicated source of revenue was required to “preserve, improve and develop the region’s civic, recreational, library, sports, cultural and other assets…” and that new methods of cooperation were needed to improve those assets. By the end of next year, the RAD sales tax is expected to have invested $4 billion in the Allegheny County economy.
“If the first 25 years of RAD is an indication of what is to come, we can expect that our region’s future is very bright, indeed,” said the Allocations Committee. “This year, our recommendation comes with the special excitement that comes with a special anniversary… The 2019 plan contains recommendations for increased operating support to all of the contractual assets and most annual grant organizations based on their records of service. These organizations continue to make major contributions to the quality of life in our region.”
“In addition, in recognition of our 25th anniversary, we are also recommending a new $2.5 million grant making project called 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,” according to the Committee.
The preliminary budget also includes $3.9 million in discretionary capital grants for upgrades at a number of facilities including exhibit renovations and fire and safety improvements. According to the report, many of the projects recommended for funding will reduce operating costs in the future and a number of other recommended projects would help assets leverage funding from other sources.
Additional key details of the preliminary budget recommendations for 2019 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.
- $947,000 in increased support for libraries.
- Nearly $3.4 million in new capital projects for regional parks and trails;
- $835,000 in capital grants for major projects at the Zoo, Phipps and Aviary along with capital grants to 23 other assets for facility improvements, accessibility projects, infrastructure repairs and equipment replacement.
- $800,000 to the Sports and Exhibition Authority for a multi-facility fund for its ongoing responsibility for capital improvements for the public facilities that it owns. Funding is not for everyday maintenance but would be used for capital repairs and improvements to the Convention Center, PPG Paints Arena, Heinz Field and PNC Park.
- A $3 million match for the Port Authority of Allegheny County that would be part of a local pool of $35.3 million that will leverage $234.3 million in state support.
- Pertaining to the Mattress Factory, all of our assets are required to be in compliance with all federal, state and local laws. In addition, assets actions must not have a material adverse effect on its operations. This preliminary budget shows the same amount that the Mattress Factory received in 2018 with a note. RAD has asked its legal counsel to review the pending allegations against the Mattress Factory. As a result of this review, the Board will then make a determination as to any allocation in our final budget.
The plan is would be supported by an estimated $101.5 million in sales tax with the balance coming from reserve funds. According to the Allocations Committee report, “Sales tax growth this year is both stronger than average and stronger than expected. While we cannot forecast this level of growth to sustain over time, we are taking advantage of this opportunity to make investments in the needs of our regional assets.”
Libraries would remain the largest single category of RAD support with $32.5 million allocated to library service next year. Since 1995, and with the 2019 budget, libraries have received a total of $622.5 million in RAD funding. Regional parks and trails remain the second largest category of funding with $32.3 million recommended for operating support and capital grants; with this budget, the regional parks and trails have received $582.1 million in RAD funding since 1995. Three applicants would receive their first RAD allocation.
The preliminary budget allocates 31% of the funding to libraries and 31% to regional parks and trails, all of which are free and open to the public; 13% to regional sports facilities and the convention center; 13% to arts and culture organizations; and 8% to regional facilities, which are the Zoo, Phipps and Aviary. Transit would receive 3% of the budget. Less than 1% goes to program administration.
In making the recommendation, the Allocations Committee made note that civic and nonprofits should continue to rely on a variety of sources of funding. “Having multiple streams of revenue is important for risk management...While there will always be challenges in raising resources, and there are never sufficient resources to meet all that is requested, we are confident that the public’s commitment reflected in this budget will help meet many of those challenges,” the Allocations Committee said.
The Committee reminded the public that the annual RADical Days event is now underway through October 14th, which provides the public with an opportunity to see their investment at no cost. On Saturday September 29th alone, there are free admission days at the North Hills Art Center, The any Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, and a Texture Contemporary Ballet performance at the New Hazlett Theater.
The Board does not vote on the budget until after it hears public comments and reviews updated revenue estimates. All of the allocations are subject to change before the final budget adoption. Additional information about the budget is available at radworkshere.org. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 18th at 3PM at the Koppers Building (436 Seventh Ave., 15219; level B). Persons wishing to speak at this meeting must register with RAD at (412) 227-1900 by no later than 10:30AM on October 18th. A detailed listing of the preliminary budget can be downloaded here.