PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh voters approved raising property taxes to fund parks in the city.
The final tallies on the Pittsburgh parks referendum came in on Tuesday and the measure passed with 51.84 percent of the vote.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, a non-profit partner of the City of Pittsburgh, spearheaded the referendum to help 165 public parks. The non-profit estimates those parks are in need of $400 million worth of repairs.
The referendum will add a tax of about $50 on every $100,000 of assessed real estate value in the city.
Many Pittsburghers stayed away from the polls during this off-year election and may not have known their property taxes could go up.
Suzetta Large from Squirrel Hill voted yes, and she says the city needs it.
“We have a great, vibrant population here in Pittsburgh that enjoy the outdoors and need to continue to raise our kids to enjoy the outdoors,” she said.
But some voters had no idea their taxes were going up. Chad Thomas of Fineview was one of them.
Paul Martino: “Did you know about that?”
Thomas: “I had not heard about that, no.”
Martino: “What’s your reaction?”
Thomas: “A little caught off guard, I guess.”
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy says they estimate the tax will generate about $10 million a year and they will work to match those funds, with their current fundraising topping out at close to $8 million a year.
Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb says the city is already overtaxed.
“We are living in a city that is among the highest taxed property taxed cities in the country. Raising property taxes for Pittsburgh right now isn’t a smart decision.”
There are also a lot of questions about how the money can be spent.
But the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy says the hike in taxes will result in money well spent.
“I’m confident that in the next several years, the impact of the investment, that residents in every part of the city will see the benefits in their neighborhood, in their parks,” says Jayne Miller with the Conservancy.
Mayor Bill Peduto and his administration said this referendum won’t keep parks from being public and he says the law is clear — the money will only be spent on parks.
“It must be created into a trust fund that will not be part of the general budget of the city,” he says.