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City Council Revisits Controversial Parks Tax

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Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
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Last November, Pittsburgh voters narrowly approved a property tax hike to improve city parks. In the months that followed, lengthy City Council debates on implementing the tax sparked disputes between members about how to move forward. Then came the coronavirus, which put the whole discussion on hold last spring — until this week.

The new levy will raise city property taxes by a half-mill — $50 for every $100,000 a property is worth — to pay for parks improvements across the city. The proceeds are to be placed in a trust fund to direct that spending. But officials decided to hold off on implementing the tax increase as the virus sent tremors through the global economy — and the city's budget.

Council still has not moved to implement the hike, but on Tuesday, the bill establishing the trust fund was taken up at the behest of the mayor's office. A fuller discussion of the bill is likely next week, but it's not clear that how the debate that started a year ago has changed.

Council President Theresa Kail-Smith, for one, has long been critical of the tax plan. She said this week that she still hadn't decided whether to support the legislation.

“There are members that want to have that conversation [about the tax],” she said. “There are some of us that think the timing is not great.”