Loss of Residents is the Mayor’s Real Problem

In recent statements emanating from the Mayor’s office and City Council, there has been a theme of tortured logic to the effect that non-residents and non-profits must contribute more to the City’s coffers to pay for the services they use and presumably for the privilege of visiting or working in Pittsburgh.

The idea turns reason on its head, especially in light of the enormous amount of taxes non-residents contribute to Pittsburgh. Here’s the Mayor’s real problem: The huge loss of residents over the last several decades, a decline that continues with more people leaving each year. Residents have departed Pittsburgh to get away from high taxes, horrendous public schools, inept and financially clueless City governance and the stranglehold public sector unions have on the City government, the schools and public transit.

The loss of residents has a serious negative impact on real estate values throughout the City, causing them to stagnate or decline as the supply of residences rises relative to demand. And since the property tax is the City’s largest single source of revenue, the inability to grow property values forces the City to go after other sources of funds. And now, the old canard about non-residents and non-profits not contributing enough has raised its ugly head once again because it is politically expedient to do so.

Rather than deal with the spending and untenable legacy cost buildup that excessive deference to unions have created, the Mayor and Council choose to look endlessly for more ways to generate revenue. This five years after the Legislature gave the City new taxing power and 15 years after the RAD tax was implemented in large part to provide money to Pittsburgh.

With this governance, residents will continue to leave and businesses will shy away from the City unless they receive enormous subsidies to offset the taxes they must pay.