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Pittsburgh may increase aid to Carnegie Library |

Pittsburgh may increase aid to Carnegie Library

Bill Zlatos
| Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:00 p.m

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he is willing to increase the city’s contribution to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to help keep branches open.

“I don’t anticipate the city will be able to do the whole $1.2 million,” he said, citing the Carnegie Library’s one-year deficit. “But we’ll be pushing to locate funding for the four facilities and the library as a whole.”

The mayor made the comment Wednesday before the kick-off of Match Day, an event sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation to encourage giving to nonprofits, including the Carnegie Library.

In a controversial move that spurred protests, the library’s board voted Oct. 5 to close the Allegheny Depository and branches in Beechview, Hazelwood, Lawrenceville and the West End, merge branches in Knoxville and Carrick, and move the Mt. Washington Library from Grandview to Virginia Avenue.

The library said its decision was necessary because of flat revenue from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, declining state money and a $40,000 contribution from the city that has not changed since 1895 when the Carnegie was founded.

The city’s contribution in 1895 would be worth more than $1 million today.

Ravenstahl said he is working with City Council “to see what the appropriate amount is,” but he did not specify a figure.

Barbara K. Mistick, president and director of the Carnegie Library, welcomed the prospect of additional money from the city.

“That’s all good news,” she said. “We did meet on Friday. He expressed all along that they’re concerned about finding ways to find short-term dollars while they look for a long-term solution.”

City Councilman Patrick Dowd said the mayor has stressed three points in the debate over the fate of the branches: the need for tight budget numbers from the library, short-term money from the city and the state, and a long-term fix.

Dowd said the city might be able to tap a $1 million surplus in the fuel fund, which resulted when gas prices dropped below the $4-a-gallon budgeted. However, that money could be used to address the city’s debt and pension problems, he said.

In return, the city might insist on more openness from the Carnegie, Dowd said.

“The revenue stream would come with changes in accountability,” said Dowd, without specifying what form that might take.

Another potential revenue source would be half of a 1 percent tax on table games at Pittsburgh’s casino.

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