When Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced plans to stave off massive Port Authority service cuts last week, you couldn't blame arts groups for feeling as though they'd been left behind at the bus stop. Fitzgerald's rescue plan involved new state money, concessions from Port Authority workers ... and $3 million in annual proceeds from the county's Regional Asset District tax, which arts groups countywide rely on.
County taxpayers have paid an extra 1 percent in sales tax since the mid-1990s: Proceeds are shared with local governments — so they could lower property and other taxes — and with cultural institutions like sports stadiums, libraries and arts groups. Revenues have been rising; in July 2012 alone, the RAD earned $7 million more than in July 2011. But more than 90 percent of RAD dollars are already spoken for by local governments, stadiums, parks, libraries and other "contractual assets" RAD is legal obliged to cover. Other arts groups, a statement from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council asserts, "have been waiting patiently for the return of increased sales-tax receipts"; using them for transit instead "represents a dangerous precedent."
So how much money are we talking here, really? Our art department offers some representation below. (No tax revenues were used in the making of these images.)