Call it a strange case of foreshadowing. When the Regional Asset District (RAD) became law under Act 77 of 1993, only a few people other than Legislators would have noticed the curious fact that the language establishing the District and the accompanying one percent sales tax was appended to an act that amended existing language dealing with investigations conducted by the coroner’s office in Allegheny County.
In the historical record, the month of June has not been a kind one to the City of Duquesne. In June of 1991, on the 20th to be exact, Duquesne was declared financially distressed. Five years ago, in June of 2007, the Board of Control that administers the school district decided to close the high school and send students to one of two nearby school districts. The Control Board has a contract with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to perform much of the management functions for the District.
There seems to be little positive news for either the City or the District. The City recently sold its sewer system to a neighboring municipal authority because it did not want to face the cost of upgrades (estimated at $14 million). The City is levying a higher wage tax on its residents and non-residents who work there under Act 47. There is no indication the City will be exiting its status anytime soon.
There are 348 students in the District according to an annual report to the Legislature from last month, and the Commonwealth spent $10.8 million, close to 70% of the District’s revenues, in the 2010-11 school year. The rates of PSSA proficiency are poor and the District has failed to meet adequate yearly progress the last two years. Plans were announced to move seventh and eighth grade students to neighboring districts, but that would hinge on legislative changes.
We’ve written about the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program (RCAP) before: it is one of many arrows in the state’s quiver aimed at eliminating blight and stimulating economic development. The General Assembly not long ago authorized increasing the cap on how much the state could borrow to fund projects through this program, and in July the Governor handed out $600 million through the Commonwealth.
Just yesterday City Council discussed entering into various cooperation agreements with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, who acts as the applicant for RCAP dollars.
Perhaps City, state, and URA officials are aware of some good economic news as several RCAP requests were amended to reflect increased dollar amounts:
A grant for Phipps Conservatory was increased from $250k to $500k
A grant for the Pittsburgh Ballet was increased from $750k to $1,250k
A grant for the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium was increased from $875k to $2,000k
A grant for the Carnegie Library modernization project was increased from $7,500k to $8,500k
And although it was not specifically amended, a grant for the Connelly Tech project-which was announced as an $8 million project in July-is now up to $12 million.