How the Steelers-Jets game helps pay for Pittsburgh’s streets, parks and police

Regardless of the score or set list, athletes and performers who come to Pittsburgh help pay the city’s budget.

tfw you get Twitter to refresh at Heinz Field

tfw you get Twitter to refresh at Heinz Field

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MJ Slaby

After Sunday’s Steelers game, Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will leave 3 percent of what he earned during the game in Pittsburgh.

That money helps pay for Pittsburgh police and firefighters, as well as streets and parks.

The fee that Fitzgerald and his teammates have to pay is the non-resident sports facility usage fee.

Any athlete or employee of a professional sports team and any performer or musician who comes to a Pittsburgh stadium or arena that was at least partly built or maintained with public funds is subject to the fee.

(Team employees include “players of the minor league or practice squad, coaches, trainers, medical staff, equipment managers, scouts, and announcers paid by the team,” according to the city’s document on the fee.)

“If you are a ballplayer for say, the Atlanta Braves, and you come to play games at PNC Park, the income you earn in the jurisdiction is subject to local rates,” explained Sam Ashbaugh, city budget director.

Ashbaugh presented the city’s proposed budgets with a $539.4 million operating budget and capital budget of $75.9 million to one of Pittsburgh’s budget overseers, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, on Wednesday.

And since the usage fee is based on earnings, Ashbaugh said the salaries of out-of-town athletes, as well as things like wage-growth projections for Allegheny County, and a slew of other data help to make revenue predictions for the city.

So as city officials created the proposed 2017 budgets, as well as the five-year financial plan, they were watching what athletes in other cities earn.

Overall, Ashbaugh said the city expects about $545 million in revenue in 2017, $6 million more than the city’s budget ask.

The funds from the sports facility usage fee are not a large part of the revenue stream for the city. For 2017, the fee is expected to yield $6.3 million — or just 1.2 percent of the total revenue.

But of all the revenue sources, the sports facility usage fee and the amusement tax (which has to do with ticket prices) are projected to have the biggest increases year-to-year through 2021.

The usage fee and amusement tax go hand-in-hand and are forecasted together, Ashbaugh said. Each are expected to increase annually at a rate of 5.4 percent on average each year through 2021.

That’s an increase of $6.3 million in 2017 to $7.8 million in 2021 for the facility usage fee.

For the amusement tax, the revenue is expected to go from $18.5 million in 2017 to $22.8 million in 2021.

Plus, the increase for the usage fee from the current year to 2017 is an estimated 9.7 percent due to better compliance, according to city budget documents.

For the city to forecast the revenue from the usage fee and the amusement tax for 2017 and beyond, Ashbaugh said the city looks at athlete salaries, ticket price data and at the number of concerts and performances coming to town, which he said seem to be consistent.

Jun 13, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Recording artists John Rich (L) and "Big Kenny" Alphin (R) of the band Big & Rich perform a post game concert after the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Philadelphia Phillies at PNC Park. The Pirates won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Big & Rich perform a post-game concert after the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phillies at PNC Park on June 13, 2015.

Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

During the ICA meeting, Ashbaugh used the athlete salaries as one example of how the city is using both historical data, as well as projections, allow for better estimates.

The ICA approved the city’s budget with one caveat: in 120 days, the city must verify that it got $10 million in gaming revenue from Rivers Casino.

Mayor Bill Peduto will present the budget to Pittsburgh City Council on Nov. 14, and council has until the end of the year to approve it. 

Pittsburgh has charged the sports facility usage fee since 2005, and as of 2013, Pittsburgh was one of “nearly a dozen cities” to have such a fee, Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

To calculate the fee, Pittsburgh uses “a ratio of games in Pittsburgh to the total games played by the team while the player is on the roster. Exhibition games, pre-season games, regular season, and post-season games are to be included. The calculation to determine the amount of the usage fee due for players, commonly known as the ‘duty day,’ ” according to city documents.

But, at least in the NFL, players are paid differently. During the 17-week season, players are paid out evenly.

Fitzpatrick, for example, makes just over $700,000 per week thanks to his $12 million salary, meaning 3 percent of his weekly salary is around $21,000. The entire game day roster for the Jets would gross just under $9 million this game week, of which 3 percent is north of $265,000.

But outside of the regular season is different.

NFL players are merely compensated for lodging and food during the preseason, and the postseason payouts are set for and paid by the league, depending on how far teams advance.