Ballot question moves toward vote

Ballot question moves toward vote

In one week Pittsburgh voters will decide a home rule charter amendment that would create a trust fund for parks with an additional 0.5 mill property tax.

It is hard to predict what will happen.  In the last decade in Allegheny County there have been seven ballot questions on a property tax millage increase.  Two were approved, three were defeated and two that applied to multiple municipalities had mixed results.

The success rate of such questions may hinge on when they appear on the ballot (primary vs. general election, odd vs. even year), the magnitude of the tax increase (in terms of millage), the existing tax burden in the area or the purpose of the tax (what it would fund). 

Only the fire tax question in Bethel Park amended a home rule charter.  Last year’s countywide children’s fund question sought do so for the county’s charter, and that is what next week’s park question aims to do for the city’s charter.  If voters or officials of Allegheny County or one of the 18 municipalities that are home rule want to head off special tax questions it might be an opportune time to review existing charter language.

Since last week’s blog on Pittsburgh’s 2020 budgeted park spending, two additional events related to the ballot question occurred. 

First, on Wednesday there was a public hearing on the question in City Council chambers.  Of the nearly 30 people who spoke, almost 20 were in favor, around 10 were opposed.  If those numbers translate to election turnout the tax would pass. 

Second, on Friday campaign finance reports were released which showed that two organizations—one very involved in park fundraising and stewardship—spent close to $760,000 on efforts to pass the tax, with much of that aimed toward advertising.  No opposition effort, if there is even a coordinated one, spent anywhere close to that.