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Regional Asset District board OKs record funding for libraries, parks and more

Carnegie Museum of Art
Bill O'Driscoll
90.5 WESA
The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, including the Museum of Art, are among the larger recipients of RAD funding.

Allegheny County consumers have been spending big, and the benefits will soon accrue to the region’s libraries, parks and arts groups, among others.

The funds come courtesy of the taxpayer-funded Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD), whose board on Thursday approved a 2024 budget of $139.7 million, the largest in its 29-year history.

RAD is funded by the county’s 1% sales tax, and its receipts, boosted by inflation and continued consumer outlays, reached record levels this year.

The 2024 budget is about 8% larger than the 2023 model.

“It has been a strong year for sales-tax revenue here, and in addition to the ‘Taylor Swift’ effect this past summer, consumer spending in Allegheny County has been much stronger than expected,” said RAD executive director Rich Hudic, in a statement. “That keeps RAD fiscally strong and affords us the ability to make these important investments in the community.”

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In all, Allegheny County expects to take in $257.8 million in sales-tax revenue in 2024, half of which is required to go to the county and its 128 municipalities for property-tax relief and local government services. The other half — $128.9 million — goes to RAD for distribution to regional assets.

The $10.8 million gap between those funds and RAD’s budget will be made up by RAD’s reserve, its investment and interest earnings, and its general fund surplus, according to a press release.

About two-thirds of outlays, as always, will go to support libraries, parks and trails in the region, including providing some 70% of the operating budget for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

About 12.5% of RAD’s total budget goes to pay down debt on Acrisure Stadium, PNC Park, and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

A similar amount — about $19 million — is split among more than 80 arts and culture groups of all sizes.

The grants for small groups range as low as $3,000 for Balafon West African Dance Ensemble and $9,120 for Bach Choir. Recipients of the largest sums include the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh ($3.7 million), the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust ($2.2 million), the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra ($1.75 million) and Heinz History Center ($800,000).

Another chunk goes to regional attractions like the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium ($5.3 million) and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens ($2.8 million).

Arts groups especially value RAD funds because, unlike most grants from, say, foundations, they are unrestricted and can be used for operating expenses.

About $19.5 million in RAD money is earmarked for capital projects at 33 organizations.

Outside of projects at parks and libraries, the largest capital outlays include: $1.5 million to Pittsburgh Zoo for security projects, accessibility projects and public restroom upgrades; $800,000 to Pittsburgh CLO to replace the roof at its construction center; $600,000 to Heinz History Center for its HVAC replacement project; and $410,000 to the August Wilson African American Cultural Center for HVAC replacement and other equipment.

WESA's parent company, Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting, receives some RAD funding.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: