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With state Rep. Bill Kortz announcing his retirement after 14 years, residents of the 38th Legislative District will be selecting his replacement.
Nick Pisciottano is currently seeking the Democratic nomination in the district, which includes Baldwin, Dravosburg, Glassport, Liberty, Pleasant Hills, Port Vue, South Park Twp., West Mifflin and Whitehall.
Pisciottano is a fourth-generation West Mifflin resident with deep roots in the community.
“I have grandparents, and great-grandparents that have been involved in local politics, local volunteer clubs, school teachers, things like that, for generations,” he says.
Pisciottano was valedictorian at West Mifflin Area High School and later graduated from Washington & Jefferson College with degrees in accounting and history. He went on to earn a master’s degree in government analytics from Johns Hopkins University.
Throughout school and after, Pisciottano has been involved in local organizations, including the West Mifflin Community Foundation. The foundation was created in 2005 and originally helped borough residents apply for funding to help homeowners cope with a number of landslides that had damaged their property.
“Since then, it’s gone through a couple different iterations,” Pisciottano says. “We’ve done a lot of local projects for organizations like the local softball club and the soccer organization, and things for seniors.”
Pisciottano became president of the WMCF in 2018. He says activities this year have included working to address local issues that have arisen as a result of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the current COVID crisis, we’ve worked to meet the needs of our seniors who cannot leave their homes,” he says. One initiative has included buying and delivering groceries to those older residents.
Pisciottano says that people who know him through his charity work contacted him about running for the 38th District seat.
“When Rep. Kortz announced his retirement, there were a lot of people who contacted me and said, ‘You should take a look at getting involved here,’” he says. “I already have existing relationships with local, state and county elected officials, so taking a run at the state representative seat that now was open seemed like a logical choice based on my background, family history and my skill set.”
If elected, Pisciottano pledges to create a 10-year economic development plan for the district to focus regional efforts on best leveraging those developments, such as the Mon-Fayette Expressway, that are already in progress.
His goal, he says, is “to fight every day to make sure that our area gets the attention that it deserves.”
Another issue that Pisciottano feels strongly about are school property tax increases, which he believes should be addressed by closing loopholes in charter school funding.
“Charter schools just don’t have the same fixed costs as public schools, but they receive the same amount of per-student funding,” Pisciottano says. “It raises the burden on local property owners that have to pay school taxes basically for charter schools through their local school district.”
Fixing the school funding formula in Pennsylvania should be a bipartisan goal, he says.
“There just needs to be more education amongst the voting public so that they understand that every year public school districts have to make a decision between raising taxes, cutting services or doing both,” Pisciottano says. “And the biggest burden on some of these public school districts (is) the burden that public school districts have to carry to fund the charter schools that are set up in their district.”
“One of the school districts in my district has to provide transportation to over 60 different schools every single day,” he says. “That’s public schools, private schools and charter schools ... That’s a huge financial burden for the district that’s eventually going to trickle down to a tax burden for taxpayers in that area.”
Pisciottano believes that his training and experience as an accountant will benefit his potential constituency.
“I really think that that financial perspective that I have, understanding how private and public businesses work, will be a valuable asset to the general assembly if I’m elected,” he says.
Education: West Mifflin Area High School; B.A., Accounting & History, Washington & Jefferson College; Master’s, Government Analytics, Johns Hopkins University
Career: Certified Public Accountant; President, West Mifflin Community Foundation
Kevin Kino is a freelance writer and filmmaker based in Pittsburgh.
Originally published May 25, 2020.