|Mayor Drew's draft ordinance eliminating the parking fund|
Parking Fees And Fines To Go To the General Fund
The Parking Fund was established in 2009, for the express purpose of expenses broadly relating to parking (signage, equipment, salaries, debt on bonds for capital improvements, etc). In addition to paying for parking-related expenses, the city has appropriated $450k from parking revenues into the General Fund every year since its inception.
The existing ordinance allows the city to add to the fund, but allows expenditures from the fund only after review by the Parking Advisory Committee. Money that remains in the fund after the direct payment into the General Fund, and paying for debt service on parking-related bonds and for Parking Department salaries was allocated to the Parking Department for improvements to the City's parking infrastructure.
The first proposed change to the ordinance would eliminate all restrictions on Parking Fund expenditures. If the revision passes, the expenses of maintaining the city's parking infrastructure would instead need to be allocated by the Council on a case by case basis. If the city eliminated staff in the Parking Department (or even if it eliminated it altogether, returning responsibility for parking to the Police Department), the savings would not be required to be used for parking, they could be used by any other city department such as Public Works, Police, or Education.
Geen Thazampallath, Parking Director, said that the parking fund, as originally envisioned, provided the Department with the flexibility to do small projects related to parking. It has been used to pay for signs that direct visitors to parking and other locations downtown, and has been used to purchase and install cement flower planters. However, Thazampallath said that currently there is very little spendable money in the Parking Fund, minimizing the practical effect of its abolition. The parking revenue is currently about $1.2M per year; Thazampallath thought it was reasonable that Mayor Drew and Common Council would covet that money to pay for other city expenses.
Increased Revenue From Fines
The second ordinance would reduce the grace period for paying fines, and double the penalty for late payment of fines. The fine would remain as it is today, but only if it is paid within 7 days, instead of the 14 days currently. After 7 days, the fine would double, and after 21 days, it would double again. For example, parking overtime in a metered space currently costs $10 if paid in the first two weeks, and $20 if paid after that. Under the proposed ordinance, that same violation would cost $10 if paid in the first week, $20 if paid in the next two weeks, and $40 if paid later than 3 weeks.
Geen Thazampallath, Parking Director, said that the proposed changes are "part of raising revenue." He pointed to the budgetary crises in funding at the state level, "we have to anticipate structural changes [in how city services are funded]."
Council Members Claim Free Parking, Except Bartolotta
Thazampallath said that most Council members are exempt from any parking tickets. Some Council Members have two license plates on the do-not-ticket list. The 2-plate list is mostly Republicans, including Giuliano, Pessina, and Salafia; it also includes the Democrat Chisem. Council members with only one license plate on the do-not-ticket list include the Republican Kleckowski, and Democrats Serra, Daley, Blanchard, Faulkner, and Nocera.
Only one Council person is NOT on the exempt list, Thazampallath said, "Councilwoman Bartolotta chose not to submit her license plate [to the do-not-ticket list]."
He further said that he did not think the list of do-not-ticket license plates played much of a role, "Honestly, I don’t think this list comes into play maybe once or twice a year…a pure guess but I’m extremely confident it isn’t misused or over used."
He said there was no mechanism for monitoring the time or frequency that cars on the do-not-ticket list would have otherwise received tickets.