Bland seeks $3M from RAD tax to bolster Port Authority
Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO Steve Bland plans to make his case Thursday for up to $3 million in funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District’s board of directors.
“This funding will be crucial in leveraging an additional $30 million in funding from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and $1.5 million from Allegheny County to support public transportation services in Allegheny County … through June 30, 2013,” Bland wrote in a 164-page application for funding dated Aug. 30.
“Over the long term, federal, state and local elected leadership will need to grapple with the overriding issue of funding our transportation infrastructure. It is our hope that the governor and state Legislature will take this issue up in early 2013, relieving (RAD) of this burden over the long term,” Bland said.
RAD supports parks, libraries, stadiums and cultural groups with half of the proceeds of an added 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald previously said he would like to develop a long-term agreement that provides RAD funding to Port Authority for as many as 10 years, part of the $4.5 million in local money needed to leverage at least $30 million in added state funding.
Fitzgerald “believes that any long-term solution that the state will come up with will also increase our local match. Right now, this increased county match is what is being sought by the RAD application,” his spokeswoman, Amie Downs, said in an email.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office repeated concerns over using RAD money for Port Authority.
“The mayor’s position hasn’t changed. Important conversations are ongoing,” said mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven. Ravenstahl appoints two of the seven board members, Fitzgerald appoints four, and those six members choose a seventh board member.
Port Authority’s application outlines financial challenges the agency faces, including rising costs for wages and benefits and decreased state funding. Port Authority will receive $155.6 million from the state this fiscal year, down almost $29 million from three years ago.
Yet, the application shows that the agency receives more than twice as much state funding as it did through 2007, when it received $75 million.
The application also points out ways Port Authority is trying to improve efficiency, reduce expenses and increase revenue.
Should the RAD board approve funding, the application said Port Authority would “recognize RAD’s commitment to the region” by wrapping one or two of its buses with the group’s logo or slogan, “RAD works here.”
The board is holding public hearings on funding requests through Thursday, spokeswoman Julie Goetz said. It will adopt a final budget, with all the funding recipients identified, on Nov. 27. The board is considering 101 requests for a combined $98 million in funding for 2013.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].