Port Authority to get $3 million from RAD board $

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The Allegheny Regional Asset District board unanimously approved a $3 million allocation to the Port Authority of Allegheny County on Tuesday, a move that will help unlock millions more in state aid so the ailing transit group can avoid grievous cuts.

Thanks to a lucrative matching formula, the $3 million plus the $1.5 million from the county's drink tax revenue will translate into $30 million in state aid, funds that will sustain Port Authority until at least the end of the fiscal year. At one point, the authority -- which faced a $64 million budget deficit -- proposed cutting services by 35 percent.

"At Port Authority, money equates to service," Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said. Without the RAD money, "We'd have less service to offer."

The allocation was approved as a part of the 2013 budget, which included $89.7 million in grants to a variety of groups and was the first time RAD money had gone to Port Authority. RAD funds, which are drawn from revenue generated by the sales tax, are split between municipalities and the RAD board.

Traditionally, RAD has supported libraries, cultural facilities, parks and stadiums, not services like the Port Authority. But Executive Rich Fitzgerald persuaded the board that transit is an asset in its own right, supporting many of the other cultural assets that RAD subsidizes.

Still, RAD board members, while they approved this year's allocation, were adamant that it should not be considered a permanent source of funding for transit. Port Authority only applied for a one-year allocation.

"This year we can afford [it]," board chairman Dan Griffin said. "We don't know if we're going to have the money to do this next year."

The money to Port Authority represents about 3 percent of RAD's total budget. Mr. Griffin said the board saw greater revenues this year, but also had to dip into reserve funds for the Port Authority allocation.

"Fortunately, revenue growth this year allows RAD to respond to this need on a one-year basis without detriment to other program areas," the allocation committee wrote in its report. "Since this may not be the case next year, we urge state and county leaders to continue their efforts to find alternate, reliable transit funding sources."

Because Port Authority had never received RAD funds and was outside of the typical range of groups that receive money, the board sought opinions from an outside attorney, who said the authority was eligible to receive funding.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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