Officials Want to Study Use of Closed School Buildings—A Time Waster

Pittsburgh has 15 closed school buildings and is about to add seven more to the list. City Council members now want to see studies of how to utilize these buildings. The School District is spending $15 million a year in maintenance and debt service costs on these structures.

Here’s a clue. Forget studies that will drag on and on, require community involvement, endless haggling, searches for funding to convert the buildings, and lobbying for government subsidies for politically correct and acceptable non-profit organizations to occupy the structures. Instead, put the buildings up for sale and hold auctions. Let the private sector decide what the best use is and the true value of the properties.

Large non-profits might choose to bid and should be allowed to, but the District should be aware that some non-profits are exempt from paying property taxes. One of the objectives of selling the properties besides getting out from under the costs of upkeep and the deterioration of unused buildings is to return the property to the tax rolls.

More studies are not the answer. They are time wasters and will be sources of controversy the District does not need.

Assessing the Allegheny Reassessment Accuracy: The Good and the Bad

In mid-2011-when all indications were that the County was on pace to complete the court-ordered reassessment and taxpayers would be getting notice of their new values as early as July-the Institute obtained two months of sales data on single family homes in order to compare the existing assessments on the homes with the new assessment as soon as it became available. Similar analysis was carried out in 2005 when the County was scheduled to unveil new assessment values for 2006. Unfortunately, the County chose to scrap the 2005 assessments leading to prolonged court cases ending in a Supreme Court order to reassess.

 

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Gearing Up for the New Assessments in Allegheny County

 

“Assessments” and “fatigue” are two words normally not linked together, but they are forever joined in Allegheny County thanks to the events of the past decade. Since the revaluations of 2001 and 2002 the County’s property assessments have been on a tortuous journey only a fiction writer could have constructed before the fact. In 2005, County officials began conjuring up schemes to avoid a promised reassessment due in 2006 resulting in an initial effort being overturned by the Courts followed by the adoption of a base year system that was challenged in a case that went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

 

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Summing Up the G-20 Summit

Shortly after the conclusion of the September G-20 Summit, the head of VisitPittsburgh claimed the event’s economic benefits to the City and region reached $35 million.  As we pointed out in an earlier Policy Brief, that was a very dubious claim. Two months later data are available that call into serious question the notion the region enjoyed a $35 million boost in economic benefits.  We now have a reading on the RAD (regional asset district) tax revenue for September, which is a gauge of retail sales in Allegheny County, as well as figures for hotel occupancy tax revenue for September, which allow us to calculate the dollars spent on hotel rooms during the month.  By comparing the September 2009 data to September 2008 numbers and examining the pattern of year over year changes for 2009, it is possible to come to a reasonable conclusion about the G-20 meeting’s direct impact on spending. 

 

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