Monday, December 21, 2009
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says Highmark, The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have come to “handshake” agreements to contribute more money than they ever have before to the city in payments-in-lieu-of-taxes. City Council members say they will vote no on the 1% tuition tax as a sign of good faith when they meet this afternoon. The commitments of financial support are contingent on the death of the tax. Mayor Ravenstahl says he will work with the other non-profits in the city over the coming year to reach similar deals. His ultimate goal is to find $15 million dollars to help fund the city’s pension program. Neither Ravenstahl nor the universities who were at a joint news conference this morning would disclose the exact level of commitment but Ravenstahl says he hopes it will serve as a catalyst for other non-profit groups to become part of the revived “Pittsburgh Public Service Fund.” Published reports set the past contributions at $800,000 from Pitt, $250,000 from CMU and $1 million from Highmark. Ravenstahl says he hopes it will also serve as a catalyst for a concerted effort in Harrisburg to change the city’s tax structure. The mayor says he will meet with the heads of several non-profit organizations and business leaders to come up with a united plan and then take that plan to Harrisburg. He says the details of the plan are to be debated but he wants to include an increase in the commuter tax and an extension of the payroll prep tax to non-profits. Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg says not only will he help with the lobbying efforts but his school will also offer research and other support to help the state deal with the issue of non taxable entities and pension programs which he says is not unique to Pittsburgh. He says it is still unclear how his university’s contribution to the fund will impact tuition in 2011.