Some school districts have raised property taxes year after year, blaming rising pension costs, while other districts have dealt with those same increases by not raising taxes. A deep dive into the data showed that those tax increases weren’t always justified.
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This project used a variety of data sources from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to show why school districts had requested property tax increases above the rate of inflation. The most common reason was pension costs. My reporting showed this has far-reaching consequences for the equality of education in the state.
Before the 2016 Pennsylvania primary, we wanted to give voters more information about the attorney general’s office, its responsibilities and the candidates running for office.
I analyzed public space in downtown Pittsburgh ahead of recommendations to change downtown from Gehl Architects, a famous urban design firm. I watched a documentary primarily about Gehl Architects, “The Human Scale,” and read one of Jan Gehl’s books, “Cities for People,” as background for this story.
The Allegheny County Council rejected an A-B-C food grading scale for restaurants twice, siding with local restaurant owners. The health department had already created a proposed grading system as a part of this proposal, so I requested the grading system and three years of restaurant inspection records. I then applied the proposed grading system to nearly a year of inspections that had already taken place. The story showed that an A-B-C grading scale would provide more gradation for consumers than a green sticker on the door, which was not an indicator of cleanliness.
I contributed data work for this story by a PublicSource freelance writer.
I compared an ambitious tax proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf with a competing plan from members of the Republican Legislature with an interactive tax calculator. The story also showed how the Republican plan disproportionately benefited school districts with higher median property values while Wolf’s plan provided more property tax relief to poorer school districts. This story was PublicSource’s most republished story in 2015. It was picked up by 15 of our print partners with a combined audience of six million readers.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed ambitious changes to the state’s tax structure in his first budget address. Wolf proposed increases to the state’s income and sales tax while cutting property taxes. We wanted to show Allegheny County residents whether they would pay more under Wolf’s proposal with our tax calculator, which allowed a user to input their school district, marital status, income and property value.
There was lots of misinformation about the problems with Pittsburgh payroll system, so we decided to investigate and write an explainer. This story relied on documents from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County that showed the slow progress of the previous payroll vendor.
In my first story for PublicSource, I wrote an explainer about Pennsylvania’s oversight program for financially distressed cities. The financial oversight team was critical of Pittsburgh’s infrastructure, pension costs and record keeping.