Report from committee evaluating parking meter systems for downtown Sarasota expected to be given to City Commission in about 120 days

Parking Management Department still requiring a $300,000 subsidy for the 2018 fiscal year, but no meter revenue has been included in budget projections

A graphic shows one segment of spaces proposed to be metered and free in the city. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Probably within 120 days, a committee that has been evaluating parking meters for downtown Sarasota will present its findings and cost estimates to the City Commission, Mark Lyons, the city’s parking manager, told the board during its June 22 budget workshop.

“Obviously, that’s a huge issue in the community,” Commissioner Hagen Brody pointed out. “I look forward to that conversation.”

And while the Parking Management Department is requesting a $300,000 subsidy from the city’s General Fund in the 2018 fiscal year, Finance Director Kelly Strickland pointed out, that is a reduction of $625,000 from the subsidy for the current fiscal year.

For years, General Fund revenue has been needed to make up the difference between income and expenses in the department, Lyons noted. (The General Fund is made up largely of property tax revenue the city receives.)

The big drop from the current subsidy, Lyons explained, is a result of the extra effort being put into collect outstanding parking fines. The subsidy “could increase,” he said. For example, he continued, maintenance expenses are rising for the city’s Palm Avenue as it ages and sees more use. Soon, Lyons told the commissioners, he plans to talk with them about a paid parking program for the city garages.

For the 2018 fiscal year, Strickland said, the Parking Management Department’s revenue is projected at $1,198,668, while its expenditures are estimated to be $1,937,706. Of those costs, she noted, $1,037,779 has been allocated for personnel; $796,927 for operations; and $103,000 for capital expenses.

The department has 14 full-time employees, she said.

Mark Lyons. File photo

The primary issues he and his staff will be working on in the next fiscal year — which will begin Oct. 1 — are the paid parking program, which the City Commission tentatively approved in September 2016; the opening of the new hotel adjacent to the Palm Avenue parking garage; and finding new revenue to pay for the department’s operations, Lyons explained.

Hotel Sarasota will use about 40% of the spaces within the Palm Avenue garage for its guests, Lyons has pointed out in the past.

“We’re very concerned about netting new revenue to make ourselves whole,” Lyons added. “We’ve talked about trying to enhance our revenues through parking citations and enforcement,” he said. “It’s just not the way to go.”

The metered parking program has been designed to “start small [and] work through phases,” he added, to make sure it functions as staff expects it will.

The 458 proposed spaces for meters are on Main Street between Gulfstream Avenue and School Avenue; South Palm Avenue between Cocoanut Avenue and Ringling Boulevard; and on Ringling between School Avenue and Washington Boulevard. Those spots comprise 11% of the total number of parking spaces in downtown Sarasota, according to material Lyons provided the commission in September 2016.

People will have to pay to park in those spaces Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., according to the plan Lyons has outlined. The fee will be $1 per hour. Holidays will remain free.

When Brody asked for clarification that no revenue from the metered parking program has been factored into the FY18 budget, Lyons replied, “That’s correct.” However, Lyons continued, the budget does include a small amount of revenue from fees for use of the parking garages during special events, such as the Downtown Sarasota Holiday Parade.

The commission approved a flat $5, all-day fee for the Palm Avenue and State Street garages, as well as the two floors of public spaces in the garage on Second Street, for such events.

The revenue projected from that program in the Palm Avenue and State Street facilities for FY18 is about $75,000, Lyons said.

City Manager Tom Barwin also pointed out that the city sells some permits for daily, monthly and overnight parking in the garages.

The St. Armands parking situation

A graphic shows the location of the St. Armands parking garage and properties to be assessed. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Lyons also reminded the commissioners that design work is underway for the parking garage that will be built on St. Armands.

The FY18 budget includes revenue projected at $262,000 for the assessments of businesses as part of the plan to pay for the garage, he said. By the end of the 2018 fiscal year, he added, $522,500 is expected to be in the fund balance for the garage, as the assessment program began on Oct. 1, 2016.

After the commission approves the maximum guaranteed price of the garage — when the design work has been completed — the city will float bonds totaling about $17.5 million to cover the cost of the new structure, Assistant City Manager John Lege explained. Bond revenue will pay back General Fund money that is being spent on the design phase, he added.

In January, when the City Commission approved the garage plans, Lyons said he anticipated the presentation of the guaranteed maximum price would be made in September. The design work is being handled by Kimley-Horn and Associates at an estimated cost of $1,706,352.

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