Parking, Reporting and Taxes

Ron Bolin, June 17, 2010
As I glanced over the 2009 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) for 2009 recently released by the City, a payment of some $609,194.41 to Robbins Parking caught my eye. Who is paying who, I wondered? So I asked. While Council often neglects to respond, I have always found city staff responsive, if not always complete in their response. What I learned was interesting and instructive concerning how figures are managed.

In 2009, the city took in some $1,282,305 in parking related fees, permits, fines, etc.. We spent $1,004,456 in all related operating expenses. We paid $253,636 in debt payments for the Harbourfront and Bastion parkades. We had capital expenditures of $60,000 for Maffeo-Sutton interim parking. When all is balanced, we had a net loss (a subsidy to parking) of $35,788 which was funded from one of our parking reserve funds. So far, so good. If one’s goal is to break even on parking, then one can expect some variation from year to year and a 2.7% loss is within range if one overlooks the fact that the town and the downtown are both supposed to be growing in which case a negative figure is alarming.

But looking at the figures I received I noticed a glaring oversight. What about VICC parking? A further request got the response that, yes, the parking income figure included that from the VICC, but no, the debt payment associated with that space was not reported. I suggested an off the top of my head figure of $200,000 in debt repayment on the parking space in the VICC, but got no counter suggestion.
The upshot is that, sticking to my uncontested guess of $200,000 in debt repayment on VICC parking, plus the previously reported loss of $35,788, parking, most of it in the downtown area, cost taxpayers some $235,788 in 2009. This is not an insubstantial figure.

It is, in fact, a figure which demands attention to parking, particularly in the downtown area; to the way in which we keep our books, and to the need to consider the way in which parking and the downtown are linked. It may be that our losses are too great. It may also be that they are too small and that there should be some free parking time downtown which might or might not increase downtown traffic and reduce our costs. We all deserve a say in the way our money is spent and to have a accurate accounting of what things are costing us.

What do you think about the downtown parking situation? Should it be subsidized more than the current $235,788 (est)? Or less? Are you satisfied with the figures in the SOFI or in the annual Financial or the Municipal Reports?