(Photo illustration by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)
Another Pittsburgh promise? Payments from ‘eds and meds’ would bring millions to PPS, allow district to slash deficit and consider ‘wonderful things’
Faced with a $56 million budget deficit last year, the Pittsburgh Public Schools [PPS] board decided to raise the district’s property taxes. City residents and district parents are receiving higher bills, but the city’s major nonprofits have remained largely unaffected. Nearly all of their property is tax-exempt.
The city’s university and hospital giants have invested in PPS students, but one of their most significant contributions, the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, can’t guarantee funding will be there for students now in lower grades. As the mayor calls on major nonprofits to pay their “fair share” to the city, PPS officials – beset by financial problems including the drain from paying charter schools – have refrained from taking sides.
If the nonprofits paid 25% of what their tax-exempt property would otherwise bring to the city, PPS would collect about an extra $11 million a year, according to a PublicSource analysis. That figure would make up a fraction of the $668.3 million general fund budget the district approved in 2022, but it would represent about 40% of the district’s current deficit, which the tax increase helped reduce from $56 million to $27 million.
It’s more than double the $5.3 million the most recent tax increase is set to bring PPS this year, too.
Wayne Walters, who was named as superintendent on July 21, said an extra $11 million would “certainly help” PPS reduce its deficit and lessen residents’ tax burden. With more funding, PPS could better address students’ social and emotional needs, strengthen its academic offerings and improve its art, health and physical education programs, he said.
“We would look at paying our bills first to make sure that it doesn’t impact, you know, our residential taxpayers, and then really think about, ‘What are the wonderful things that we can do for the children and families that we serve in Pittsburgh Public Schools?’” Walters said.