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.
Lead in Pittsburgh’s water supply was barely under the Environmental Protection Agency’s action limit. This is a short explainer about the common sources of the lead and risks of being exposed to lead.
We follow up on a story that we worked on a year ago about excessive overtime at the Kane Regional Centers, nursing homes owned by Allegheny County. In the year since we last reported on this issue, nothing had changed.
With substantial percentages of police, fire and EMS personnel pension eligible, I wrote about overtime and the lack of staffing in Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Department in the context of how is the city planning for a potential wave of retirements.
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.
I broke the identity of a group that had contributed more than $500,000 to air attack ads in the 2015 Pennsylvania Supreme Court race. It turns out that the same people running this group were behind another group — Pennsylvanians for Accountability — that PublicSource investigated a couple years ago. We were able to report the identity of this group days before the election, giving out readers important information to consider before voting.
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.
Pennsylvania had the second-worst vaccination rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I digitized eight years of vaccination records to find out why the state was failing. I found that Pennsylvania’s low vaccination rate was not caused by the state’s medical, religious or philosophical exemptions, but because the state allowed students to attend school for up to eight months without having all of their required vaccines. In response to my reporting, the Secretary of Health wrote an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Department of Health changed the provisional period to five days.