Under the terms of state law establishing improvement districts-be they for neighborhoods, business areas, a combination of both, etc.-it is incumbent on those against the plan, which normally involves levying an extra tax or fee on top of existing taxes to supplement and, frankly, improve, a targeted area. In Pittsburgh, Downtown and Oakland have had improvement districts for some time, but in areas outside those the concept has not gained traction.
That’s not to say that residents of Pittsburgh won’t vote to levy higher taxes on themselves, as they did it last year to fund the Carnegie libraries. But proposals for the West End, South Side, East Liberty, and now, Lawrenceville, have been defeated or not gotten to the drawing board. We wrote about the Lawrenceville proposal last fall. If the City verifies the vote as reported, the Lawrenceville proposal had close to 60% against it, well above the standard set by Act 130, which says an improvement district fails if 40% object.
The most recent count of improvement districts statewide (from 2010) is 32, with about a third of them in Philadelphia.