Residents question ballot referendum for tax increase to support city parks
Last updated 10/2/2019 at 8:49pm
Last week’s Carrick Community Council (CCC) quarterly membership meeting started with a debate about an upcoming ballot referendum that could lead to a significant funding increase for city parks at the cost of higher property taxes.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) is seeking an incremental $10 million per year to fund maintenance, rehabilitation, capital improvements, and programming across 20 city parks. These four areas of focus were identified as most important to residents during the PPC’s Listening Tour earlier this year.
The PPC estimates this funding will cost taxpayers approximately $50 per year on each $100,000 of assessed real estate value. The decision to fund the initiative will ultimately be made by city residents through a referendum added to the November 2019 ballot.
According to Camila Rivera-Tinsley, director of education, the PPC already receives city funding and Regional Asset District (RAD) tax dollars, but a significant portion of that funding can only be used on parks larger than 200 acres. Many of the city’s smaller parks do not receive the same level of maintenance.
“We feel that it’s really important that we elevate all the parks in the city to the same level,” Ms. Rivera-Tinsley said.
If the referendum is passed, the $10 million per year would be used to maintain and rehabilitate a list of 20 city parks which would be prioritized based on a “Community Need Score”. The list would be recalculated annually.
McKinley Park is ranked number two on the list, and it is the only District 4 city park represented in the initial 20.
A few Carrick residents voiced criticism about the tax increase, and one resident suggested the majority of the community is not well-informed on the proposal. Other residents felt the city parks are already in good shape and the funding could be better used to improve roads, sidewalks, and crumbling city steps.
While Ms. Rivera-Tinsley acknowledged the tax increase, she also said park investment is known to raise home values and benefit the entire neighborhood. She added Pittsburgh’s parks are significantly underfunded.
“If you benchmark our city against other cities that are the same size, we spend a fraction of the money other city’s spend on city parks,” Ms. Rivera-Tinsley said.
Ms. Riversa-Tinsley added if the referendum is passed, the PPC will not be in charge of disseminating the funds. A parks board, consisting of community members and city council will provide oversight on how the dollars are spent.
Following the PPC presentation, CCC board president Sherry Miller Brown provided several updates.
Ms. Brown said as of February 2019, the CCC is officially recognized as a Registered Community Organization by the City of Pittsburgh.
The recognition caught the attention of the Forbes Fund, who requested a presentation from the CCC board at the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership Summit. Ms. Brown said she will present on the topic of community capacity development. The event will be held on December 3 in the Wyndham hotel downtown.
Ms. Brown also announced Carrick won third place in the City of Pittsburgh Annual Garbage Olympics. The beautification committee, led by Linda Donahue, collected 50 bags of garbage, 17 televisions, a couch, and other trash around the Carrick community.
Ms. Donahue said the CCC’s beautification committee will supply free bags and gloves to any residents who would like to clean-up their block.
Following Ms. Brown, capacity committee chair Donna McManus announced the CCC will be adding several new board members during the annual election in November.
CCC board members are expected to attend monthly board meetings, four quarterly membership meetings, and serve on at least one board committee. Residents interested in joining the board must submit an application online at http://www.carrickpa.com by October 24.
The CCC’s capacity committee is also hosting several community events:
The CCC will sponsor a membership drive table at the Oktoberfest celebration event in the Stewart Avenue church on October 12. A CCC membership costs $5 and cardholders have unlimited free access to the Heinz History Center, Meadowcroft Village, and the Fort Pitt Museum.
The Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch will host a “Citizen’s Response to an Active Threat” training on October 7 at 25 Carrick Avenue. The presentation will be about two hours and light refreshments will be available.
The CCC’s annual Halloween party is October 26 from 1-3 p.m. at the Phillips Park Recreation Center. The party is for children 12 and under, and will involve games, crafts, and a costume contest.
Carrick’s annual Light-up Night will be December 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The event is moving to the Phillips Park Recreation Center this year in order to accommodate indoor activities such as games and ornament decorating. School choir and dance performances will take place outside in the park. Volunteers are needed for the event.
At the end of the meeting, Carrick resident Lisa Gonzalez announced the Port Authority is planning to eliminate several stops on the 51-Carrick bus route along Brownsville Road, including one by the Dairy District Pavilion.
Ms. Gonzalez asked residents to contact the Port Authority and advocate to keep the bus stops as part of the 51 Carrick bus route. Residents can call the Port Authority at 412-442-2000 or comment online at http://www.portauthority.com.