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After more than 30 years, Rankin will exit state’s Act 47 program

A street corner with a brick building.
Gene J. Puskar
This March 1, 2018 photo shows a shopper leaving Carl's Cafe owned by Carl Lewis in Rankin, Pa.

State and local officials will host an event Wednesday in Rankin to celebrate the community’s exit from Act 47, the state oversight program for fiscally distressed municipalities the community has been in since 1989.

An event at the municipal building on Hawkins Avenue will mark the occasion at 1 p.m.

Act 47 gives financially distressed communities additional taxing powers beyond what they would normally have under state law, as well as other tools to help them balance their budgets.

Communities in Act 47 tend to face structural problems brought about by the decline of the steel industry locally, said George Dougherty, an assistant professor at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

“For the most part, the fiscal distress that these communities face is not really based on bad management or … elected officials making bad decisions,” said Dougherty, who also serves as the Act 47 coordinator for Braddock and Duquesne. “There are almost no problems that these communities face that a really good tax base … wouldn't alleviate.”

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Still, he said, communities that exit the program will “need to continue to be very conservative on the spending side and match that to their revenues.”

Rankin has worked to explore regional policing, and partnered with other local communities on the Rivers Edge volunteer fire department, Dougherty said. Rankin will likely also benefit from any future redevelopment on the Carrie Furnace site.

Borough officials could not be reached for comment. The borough has roughly 1,800 residents.

Duquesne and Braddock are also set to exit Act 47 later this year. So many municipalities are exiting around the same time because of changes to the law in 2014 that put time limits on their ability to stay in the program indefinitely.

Pittsburgh entered Act 47 in 2003 and exited the program in 2018.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.