Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Council Passes Budget Dispute over August Wilson Center Derails Capital Spending Proposal

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Council Passes Budget Dispute over August Wilson Center Derails Capital Spending Proposal

Article excerpt

After an evening that saw its share of shouting, finger-shaking and Springsteen references, Allegheny County has a 2014 operating budget -- but several county council members aren't happy about how they got there.

County council approved the $817 million financial plan with a 12- 3 vote, passing a budget that has no property tax increase. It's a 2 percent increase over the 2013 budget and includes an additional $2 million for the county's fund balance.

Much of the debate Tuesday night centered on the district attorney's office, which has been the cause of considerable hand- wringing on council.

It all started last month, when District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. disappointed in the $15.8 million allocation proposed by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, asked council last month for an increase to help form a task force that would fight crime in eastern suburbs.

In doing so, he threw the county police under the bus, saying they've gotten out of the business of busting drug dealers.

His cause caught fire with council, who appeared poised to grant the district attorney more than $16.5 million. But it also attracted the ire of Mr. Fitzgerald's administration, with top leaders suggesting Mr. Zappala stick to prosecuting.

Mr. Zappala later met with Mr. Fitzgerald and announced Tuesday he had reached a compromise: a budget of $16.2 million and a promise from Mr. Fitzgerald to work together on developing a comprehensive crime-fighting plan.

This came as bit of a surprise to some on county council, which has the final say on all budget matters. Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, suggested Mr. Fitzgerald had overstepped his bounds by brokering a deal with the district attorney. She fiercely -- and unsuccessfully -- fought to keep funding for the task force, which she hoped would stem violence in hard-hit communities.

"There was a conversation between two groups that don't appropriate one cent," she said. …

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