Port Authority Proposed Service Cuts
As many of you have probably already heard, the Port Authority of Allegheny County has once again not only threatened to reduce service hours and routes by 35 percent but also increase fare rates come September 2nd. Although ridership is up, this would make it the largest cut in the agency’s 48-year history affecting every user of the system in some way.
The Port Authority is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors, who are appointed by the Allegheny County government. The tax payers are responsible for much of the authority’s income since it comes from county, state and federal sources. Although the Port Authority is publically funded, the authority makes its own decisions and the state has no control on the spending or the ability to dictate route schedules.
The Allegheny County Port Authority’s plan is a reaction to an estimated $64 million deficit in its 2012-13 operating budget, which takes effect in July. This is not the first time the authority has threatened service cuts and increased fares in order to generate more money from both the General Assembly as well as you, the riders. During the 2010-11 fiscal year, I and other members of the Allegheny County delegation in the General Assembly lobbied then Governor Ed Rendell to help sustain mass transit for our county. Due to our efforts, $45 million was secured and the Port Authority of Allegheny County scaled back the cuts from the projected 35 percent to 15 percent.
The state has consistently funded the Port Authority by more than half of their budget each year as well as infused them with additional funding during 2010-2011; yet cuts still took place. I am a firm advocate for funding for the system and voted in favor of Act 44 of 2007, which would have provided dedicated funding for mass transit through tolling of I-80. However, in order to convert I-80 into a toll road, the plan needed approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which rejected all applications.
This is a bipartisan issue that affects all age groups. People are dependent on the system to get to work and businesses need mass transit to survive, especially in these hard economic times. Seniors rely on mass transit to get to doctor appointments and many Pittsburgh public school children depend on the Port Authority to get to school. Unemployment will also rise due to the estimated 500 to 600 jobs that could be eliminated if this plan is implemented.
History speaks for itself when it comes to funding fixes for the Allegheny County Port Authority. The Legislature has already infused the Authority with additional funding in the past and here we are again in the same situation. Citizens need to demand a long term solution to this problem in addition to the issues we face when it comes to road and bridge funding.
A sustainable solution needs to begin with Governor Tom Corbett. Early on in his administration, he appointed a Transportation Advisory Commission. In August 2011, the Commission released many recommendations to help solve the funding issues we face today. However, the General Assembly has not been given a chance to vote on even one of the suggestions from the commission. If this isn’t a crisis that needs an immediate solution, I don’t know what is.
I encourage my constituents to speak out against these unfair cuts and contact the Port Authority Board. I also hope you will consider attending the public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 29th from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. A public comment period will be running from February 5th until March 9th if you are unable to attend the hearing.
Please be assured that I will continue to advocate for dedicated funds for mass transit and do everything in my power to help make sure these cuts of services are not a reality.
Update on Allegheny County Reassessments
Last week, Judge R. Stanton Wettick set new deadlines for requesting informal hearings and applying for formal appeals of the 2013 court-ordered reassessment values for City of Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver Borough property owners.
The new deadline for requesting an informal hearing is February 15th. To schedule one, you can call 412-350-4600 or visit http://apps.alleghenycounty.us/InformalReviews. If you had already requested one, but it had been canceled or scheduled, the Office of Property Reassessment will contact you to schedule. Informal hearings are used to correct inaccurate property characteristics such as square footage or the number of rooms in the house. In order to make the process easier for property owners, you also have the option of submitting information online for consideration and, if appropriate, correction. Simply visit the County’s Real Estate Website and review your 2013 court-ordered reassessment values online to submit a form or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your Parcel ID, contact information and the data corrections you believe need to be made.
The new deadline to request formal appeals of the 2013 court-ordered reassessed values is April 2nd. A formal appeal allows you to present evidence related to the value of your property such as comparables or sales data. The three taxing bodies also receive notice of the appeal and may also attend and present evidence. To request a formal appeal, you must fill out and submit an Appeal Request Form to the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. You can download and print an Appeal Request Form by visiting the Allegheny County website or by calling 412-350-4600 to request the mailing of a form. You can also obtain an Appeal Request at any of my district offices.
As a reminder, the 2013 court-ordered reassessed values will not be used for taxation purposes until next year. Instead, your taxes will be based on the 2011 base-year values.
The Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review (BPAAR) will hear all appeals and will conduct one hearing per property. If you schedule a formal appeal hearing, you need to bring with you a copy of the Hearing Notice, a signed Authorized Representative form if appropriate, and specific information demonstrating the property’s value. You should bring three copies of your evidence for distribution to other parties and keep copies for your records. For more information on the formal appeal process, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on the County website.
Property owners in the rest of the County will receive notice of their 2013 court-ordered reassessment values in the mail in phases over the next month and a half. For information on when your values will be sent, visit the Court-ordered Reassessment Page on the County’s website for a schedule. The deadline(s) for appeals of those values will be determined by the judge moving forward. The deadline for appeals of the 2011 base year values is April 2nd for all property owners in the county.
As always, if you need assistance with filing an appeal, my staff stands ready, willing and able to help.
Free Online Tax Preparation
If you earned $57,000 or less in 2011, you are eligible to e-file your federal tax returns at no cost. The Free File Alliance, a coalition of industry-leading tax software companies has again partnered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to offer the IRS Free File Program. Since 2003, IRS Free File has offered low-to-moderate income taxpayers free access to leading online commercial tax preparation software. To file your federal tax returns online please visit the IRS Free File page and make sure you have a copy of your 2010 federal tax return and all W-2’s and 1099 forms before getting started. For more information on the IRS Free File Program, contact the Pittsburgh Taxpayer Assistance Center at (412) 395-5667.
Did You Know…
More than 33 million federal tax returns have been filed through the IRS Free File
since its inception in 2003?
Upcoming Job Fairs
For anyone looking for work, I want to remind you of two upcoming job fairs that I wrote about in my News & Views Special Edition: JOBS! If you have a friend or loved one looking for a new position, please feel free to share this information with them:
UPMC is hosting a Career Fair on Thursday, January 26th at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monroeville. They are looking to fill 375 positions at UPMC East Hospital, which is scheduled in open in July. There are positions available for nurses, hospitality and service workers, technicians and clinical support staff. You can visit with
UPMC staff from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. to learn about these opportunities. For more information on this event, please visit UPMC East's website.
The Pittsburgh Zoo is holding its Annual Job Fair on Saturday, January 28th from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Individuals interested in summer openings at the Zoo should be prepared to be interviewed at the Job Fair. For more information on the positions available and the interviewing process, please visit the Pittsburgh Zoo's website.
Green Tree Looking for Volunteers
Green Tree Borough is looking for volunteers interested in serving their community and is looking to fill vacancies on their Code Appeals Board, Planning Commission, and Traffic Advisory Board. If you are a resident of Green Tree Borough and interested in one of these vacancies you can complete a Volunteer Bank Application and return in to the Borough Administration Office at 10 West Manilla Avenue, or email the completed application to email@example.com. To learn more about these vacancies please visit Green Tree Borough's website.
New Neighbor in the West End
World renowned Steinway Piano Gallery has signed a lease and is moving into space at 445 South Main Street in the West End. They are schedule to open for business on February 1st! The famous piano company has already started making exterior and interior improvements at the property. You can view the renovation progress on their Facebook Page. Congratulations to the members of the West End community who work tirelessly on attracting new businesses to their business district. Welcome Steinway Piano Gallery!
Brunot Island is named after Dr. Felix Brunot, who purchased the island in 1797 after serving as medical staff during the Revolutionary War. Dr. Brunot was a pioneer in using electricity for medical treatments and ironically today the island is home to a Duquesne Light power generating facility.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana