Monday, May 2, 2016

Elimination Of Parking Fund And Increased Penalties For Late Payments To Be Considered

Mayor Drew's draft ordinance eliminating the parking fund
As part of his budget address (here), Mayor Drew included three ordinance changes. One of them would double the penalties for late payment of parking fines, and another would divert revenue from parking fees and fines into the general budget of the city.

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.


Anonymous said...

John Oliver explained why raising municipal penalties is discriminatory weeks ago.

john milardo said...

Are you serious? The Mayor wants to penalize those who frequent downtown businesses and make Middletown a bustling community because he has overextended our revenue sources. Parking revenue should be utilized for improvement, enhancement and construction of parking lots and facilities only. Go ahead and double up on fines and reduce time periods to pay them. That's good business practice to enhance the customer base downtown. (sarcasm)
Many of those voting on this issue only go across the town hall parking lot anyway, so they won't care how it affects the public.

Bill Wilson said...

This is how the state runs now, so why not the city of Middletown as well. T

Anonymous said...

The mayor has done nothing but spend money from the time he took office. Now that he and the council have had their fill of spending they want schools to do with less, they want city employees to do with less, they want to increase penalties for overdue parking tickets, and nickel and dime their way to a more manageable budget. What we don't see is the mayor or his staff taking any initiative in decreasing expenses on their end in order to set an example (if nothing else). If I recall correctly, the mayor's assistant is up for a substantial raise even as threats of cutting school staff are approaching reality. How about the mayor and his staff figure out how to make do with a 1% increase?

I'm glad I didn't vote for this mayor, and I surely won't in the future. One would think the Republicans in this town could find someone to challenge the mayor effectively. Alas.

Heretic2016 said...

I'm also bothered by the do not ticket list. Since when are those on the council exempt from parking fines when applicable? If keeping a do not ticket list isn't that big a deal for the mayor or the head of the parking authority, then there should be no problem eliminating it.

Anonymous said...

I don't really care if the Mayor & Council increase the parking fees & fines. I shop at the Shopping Plazas in Middletown & Cromwell where parking is free and you don't have to worry about the city ticketing your car. If everybody would do this then the politicians would not increase the fees because there would not be any businesses left. I say boycott Main Street Middletown.

Anonymous said...

The Council should not be exempt from tickets. They need to lead by example. Kudos to Mary Bartolotta the only one who gets this.

David Sauer said...

I am curious as to exactly who is on the do not ticket list and why. It sounds to me like it is more than just the mayor and council on the list.
This is probably a very good time to examine the list and whether there is a good reason for its continued existence.

Anonymous said...

If the city is looking to increase revenue with ticketing, how about ticketing speeders? Much more money involved and would make the city safer for all including bicyclists and pedestrians. 50 mph on Main Street right past the police station? Wouldn't have had to spend $100,000 for "calming" on High Street which is now a high speed slalom. Wouldn't have to spend so much money on "Safe Streets".

Anonymous said...

Well, to ticket speeders would require our police to actually do something. One wonders how cars can go 50 mph past the police station and nobody takes notice. Maybe MPD would be a good place to begin cutting to a 1% increase.

Robert Blanchard said...

I don't typically engage in online comments but given this article, I feel compelled to do so. As reported, I am one of the Council members that is on the exempt list of license plates. Because I strongly believe that as a member of the council, I should not be voting, helping to pass or advocating for any law or ordinance that I myself can be exempt from, I contacted the Director of Parking today and asked that my name/plate be removed from the "do-not-ticket" list.

However, what I also strongly believe and have mentioned in the past, is that individuals that volunteer for bodies such as the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Education or the dozens of commissions that we have in town, should have a permit to park in either the city hall lot or Melilli Plaza lot. There is no reason people that choose to dedicate time, effort and commitment to our city should do so at a cost to them.

-Rob Blanchard

John Milardo said...

Regarding Mr. Blanchard's statement, I fully agree those individuals who volunteer and are unpaid committees and/or commission members should park for free. Those who are compensated should pay.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about the speeding issue. The police made the arbitrary decision to paint the curbs yellow on my street (East Main) so no one can park on either side of the street now. All that did was make it easier for people to drive at ridiculous speeds down a curvy road that is also a fire route. Brilliant! Thanks for lowering my property value while simultaneously making it easier for me to get hit and killed taking out the trash.