The situation between city government and Pittsburgh's charitable and nonprofit institutions sounds like a Mexican standoff.
Two months ago, the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, a coalition of 100 organizations, sent the city a draft agreement that would have continued for three more years the voluntary payments that funneled nearly $14 million to the city for 2005 through 2007. The unique deal, one part of the successful effort that kept the city from bankruptcy, guaranteed money for the city from groups that don't pay property taxes.
But the fund never received a response to its proposal. City officials say they've been waiting for final dollar figures from the trust.
Luckily, the trust remains willing to make payments for last year, this year and 2010 under the terms of a three-year deal modeled after the inaugural agreement. That means the delay didn't cost the city the 2008 payment.
Going forward, not all of its participants have agreed to pitch in for three years; due to the recession, some organizations made a pledge for one year but don't want to make promises beyond that.
The overall contribution from the fund likely will be less than in prior years, although neither side has said how much less. (One troubling element of the fund is it does not publicly release the names of participants or the sums they give.)
This may not be the most generous deal, but it will be money in the bank. The city had better act quickly this time so it doesn't miss out on this vital source of revenue.
First published on February 19, 2009