Yes, Let’s See Where ALL RAD Money Goes

An opinion piece celebrates the start of RADical days, when the assets funded by the 1 percent sales tax created under the Regional Asset District offers free admission as a "thank you" to taxpayers to show them what the money has paid for. The op-ed closes by noting "RADical Days are the most entertaining way to watch your tax dollars at work."

Much more entertaining that going down to see what happens at the County Courthouse or the City-County building, that is for sure. If the Port Authority gets deemed a regional asset as is envisioned by the recent bailout plan perhaps there will be a day in the future when "free" bus or trolley rides will get patrons to RADical days.

The piece correctly points out that one half of the proceeds from the sales tax goes to fund the assets. The other half is split into two pieces, 25 percent to Allegheny County, the other 25 percent to the municipalities in the County. The legislation creating RAD mandated that upon accepting the money the County and the City had to eliminate their personal property taxes, and the City had to reduce its amusement tax from 10 percent to 5 percent. The City and the County had to create senior citizen tax relief programs and municipalities other than the City and the County were to use the money to reduce local taxes and dedicate a portion to inter-municipal organizations like councils of government.

Do taxpayers know what their local governments are doing with the money? For the County’s 2012 budget the revenue side shows $41.5 million from the sales tax, which amounts to its 25 percent share under the formula. Then, under "other and miscellaneous" there is $17.8 million reported from the Regional Asset District. The latter allocation in its entirety goes to Parks, which has a $22 million budget this year. The $41.5 million goes entirely to non-departmental revenues, a $408 million pot of money. The City budgeted $12.2 million this year as its share and notes that the money "replaces funds lost with the elimination of the personal property tax, the reduction of the amusement tax…and the expansion of the City’s real estate senior relief program".

The RAD website notes that "as a result of new sales tax revenue, 115 municipal governments reduced local millage, 10 eliminated the per capita tax, and three reduced/eliminated the wage tax." It is a strong bet that many of those millage rates have crept back up, and we know that the County and the City have been granted and are often asking for new sources of tax revenue.

More Foot-Dragging

Say it isn’t so. A newspaper report today pointed out that the oversight board is ready to wield its stick against the City if the City does not get moving on a financial management system, also known as an "Enterprise Resource Planning System" which manages an organization’s accounting, payroll, human resource functions, etc. and which the City lacks.

The Act 47 amended plan-adopted in 2009-said "the City shall continue to work with the County to merge its ERP functions to the County’s platform by December 31, 2009". There was no midnight marathon session like we saw with the pension bailout this past New Year’s Eve. For those keeping score at home, we are now 421 days past the Act 47 deadline for the integration. If the City was willing to ignore that directive, what hope is there that the oversight board’s admonishment will fare any better?

There should be no surprise, after delays in moving purchasing to the County took longer than it should have, the study to answer the question of whether to merge the City and County took longer than it should have, and now this. The City claims it wants to look at other options, including going onto the Water and Sewer Authority’s management platform.

It is especially galling since the City has already appropriated the money ($10 million) but says it is reluctant to move ahead because the sale of the Municipal Courts building somehow figures into the financing of the deal. Instead they prefer to stick with the "fragmented" and "obsolete" system as described by the Act 47 team.