I have been watching the maneuvering that has been going on for the last nine months related to a proposed increase in Parry Sound metered parking rates. It seems we may be approaching a resolution. Here are my two bits.

Parking revenue currently grosses about $100,000 per year for the town. The net, after expenses related to salaries and parking related costs, is about $30,000. This amount is applied to the parking reserve and offsets town expenses. Raising parking costs to $0.75 per hour would raise revenue to about $150,000, but increase the town’s net to about $80,000. This is because costs are fixed and would not increase proportionately with revenue. Raising parking costs to $1.00 per hour would increase the net to about $130,000. This would go a long way to helping cover the town’s looming budget gap.

About the DBA’s free parking proposal. The town already provides the downtown with free parking, quite a bit of it. If you live in Parry Sound you of course realize that there is no charge for parking before 9:00 AM and after 5:00 PM, nor is there any charge on weekends or holidays. And then there is free parking for the full month of December, presumably a busier shopping period. That’s a pretty good deal for merchants and shoppers.

About the Big Box stores. Well, they paid for the land they use for parking, pay taxes on that property and are responsible for the cost of snow removal, line painting, etc. They absorb the cost of parking as part of the price of doing business; they don’t ask their patrons to pay for it, at least not directly. Downtown parking property is not owned by the merchants, is not taxable to the merchants, and is not the merchants’ responsibility to keep clear of snow. Those downtown businesses that provide free parking for their patrons know how these costs add up.

And those six hundred signatures in support of free parking. This raises a few interesting points. How many signatures might we be able to collect on a petition to eliminate the federal and provincial excise taxes and HST on gasoline? Or how about a petition to eliminate all fees for camping in provincial parks? It sounds good to me, and it’s not relevant. First, the only signatures that should count are those of Parry Sound residents and property owners. This is because it is residents and businesses that will be required to pick up the cost of free parking. By my estimate the annual dollar cost for free parking would be about $10 per town resident at the current rates (lost net revenue and basic parking expenses). The figure would rise to more than $15 per person if free parking meant the town was to forgo an increase to $0.75 per hour, and more than $20 per resident if the forgone hourly rate was $1.00. This means a family of four would effectively need to pay an additional $50 to $100 per year in taxes to support free parking. So let’s redo the petition thing and ask town residents if they are in support of free parking for shoppers with the understanding that there would be an additional $50 to $100 per family added to their property taxes.

Free parking will benefit the business downtown, and that would be a good thing. The problem is that Parry Sound can’t afford it. Town Council will need to make some tough decisions to manage the budget gap for 2013 and 2014. Raising parking rates for the first time in a dozen years seems a ‘no-brainer’. Already the six month delay in raising rates has cost the town about $50,000. Let’s not lose any more than we need to.

If the downtown businesses feel free parking is that important to their success they should consider subsidizing the town for the lost net parking revenue, about $150,000 per year with the proposed increase to $1.00 per hour. Based on some 250 or so Downtown Business Association members, the cost works out to about $600 per year per business, or less than the price of a coffee and a doughnut a day. This seems to be a trivial cost for a business considering the benefits the association believes free parking will provide. Please, take a little bit out of what will surely be larger profits, perhaps that doughnut and coffee; don’t ask Parry Sound residents to subsidize your businesses with our property taxes. We are, after all, your customers.

Bridge Art – Wait

Bridge_Art - Wait