City parks tax approved by Pittsburgh voters last month could be in jeopardy

Mayor Peduto weighs in on parks tax concerns

PITTSBURGH — The city parks tax approved by Pittsburgh voters last month could be in jeopardy.

Voters approved the referendum, but Target 11 obtained a seven page opinion from the city law department that says council now has the final say on implementing the tax.

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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was a strong supporter of the referendum.

“They do have the ability to write it in a way that talks about how it is to be administered. There’s a lot of latitude given to council on that end," Peduto said.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith, along with Anthony Coghill, Deb Gross and Darlene Harris, have been outspoken opponents of the referendum that taxes property owners in the city $50 for every $100,000 assessed value. During the meeting Wednesday, Smith suggested some voters are having second thoughts.

“I think there’s a lot of people having buyer’s remorse after voting for the tax,” Smith said.

The mayor’s administration and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy supported the tax, saying it’s needed to improve the city’s 165 parks. Peduto said he will work with council on how that money will eventually be spent on the city’s parks.

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Councilman Ricky Burgess said he supports the referendum that could bring in as much as $10 million per year, but he believes council should have control of the purse strings -- with strings attached.

“I would have to see a commitment to diversity -- not just in the parks they pick but, in their own organization and the people they hire to perform the work,” he said.

There is no word yet on when council will vote on the tax.

The conservancy declined to comment directly on the situation, but officials said that all money received from the parks tax will be under direct control of the city.

Who's overseeing millions of dollars collected in tax revenue to fix, maintain city parks?