PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With half of a year in the books, the parking meter program isn't turning the revenues an early pro-forma supposed. But, it is still producing more revenue than the city took in previously.
The meters went live at the start of the year — though accepting revenue was deferred for a few weeks at first — and at the halfway mark the meters have taken in $62,577 in revenue. Meanwhile, the cost to the city to date was $20,172, according to Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood.
Should that trend continue throughout the rest of the year, it should give the city some $84,810 in net revenue from the meters alone.
That, however, does not include the capital cost to get them up and running. In 2014, the City Council authorized the borrowing of $500,000 to purchase and install the meters. Kerwood said as of June 30, $334,800 of that had been spent and subsequently bonded.
"There is still more spending that could happen under that authorization," Kerwood said.
The city wrapped the permanent financing for those expenses into a $6.4 million bond issuance. That bond is deferring principal payments for five years. In FY18, the city will be paying $11,935 in interest on that $334,800. In 2023, that number is going to jump to $42,742 when the city pays both principal and interest on it. Over the course of the life of the bond, Kerwood said the city will have to pay back $465,045 — which is a total of about $130,000 in interest.
The city could ultimately end up borrowing more. The city has been expanding the amount of metered spaces throughout the last six months — most notably with the reconstruction of the First Street Lot. Even after the meters went live, there were spaces available for hourly parking but once construction began, half of the lot was closed and the other half was turned to permit parking. When the lot is completed, meters will be installed there too. More spaces throughout the downtown were proposed to be eventually be installed when the program launched.
"We could possibly take some of the revenues and buy additional kiosks," Kerwood said.
The actuals are far from the estimates presented in September 2016 and prepared by former Director of Maintenance Denis Guyer. Guyer's pro forma estimated $409,319 from metered revenue. It'd be hard to say when the rest of the meters are up and running the revenue figures would approach that.
However, the sale of parking permits and the amount taken in from citations has increased with the implementation of metered parking.
Kerwood said that has translated into an increase of about $32,500 in revenue from the permits.
Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities David Turocy said the number of permits requested jumped. But, interestingly, the new requests were "almost exclusively" for the First Street lot, for which there is a waiting list. Turocy expected an increase in requests for the McKay Street Garage but that hasn't happened.
The city also saw an increase in citation revenue to the tune of $39,740, according to Kerwood. In fiscal year 2016, the city took in $144,564 in citation revenue and in fiscal year 2017, with only half a year of metered parking, $184,304.
By adding those increases to the meter revenue, it brings the city closer to taking in what it had envisioned as neither of those was factored into the pro-forma.
The City Council approved the creation of a special account for parking revenues and authorized $130,000 in spending from it to pay for the service fees, supplies, the purchase of a new license plate reader system for the parking clerks, and repairs to the McKay Street Garage.
The idea behind the meters would be to have a program which would pay for itself and then some. The parking plan was developed by a requirement of the state for its investment in repairing the McKay Street Garage. The state wanted a program to maintain the garage.
The council's authorization included $30,000 for repairs to the garage. But so far, the numbers are not supporting everything as originally envisioned.
In September the project was sold to the council as including everything related to parking - from the cost of snow plowing to the salaries and benefits of the enforcement officers to electric for the two garages to the capital bonds. All of those parking-related expenses totaled an estimated $1,013,388 and the plan was to put an estimated $409,319 from the meters, $482,530 from the permits, and $174,074 from the citations toward covering those expenses. That would have given the city an estimated $52,535 per year to set aside for repairs.
The revenue trends aren't enough to support moving all aspects of parking to be paid from that account. But, the meter revenue is covering more than the additional costs taken on by implementing it - many of the costs the city had hoped the meters would have covered were already being incurred every year.
When the City Council approved the creation of a special revenue account, Kerwood said he didn't write the pro-forma and that his main focus was ensuring the cost of the meters were covered. And, that has happened. But what else the meter revenue can cover has yet to be determined. The summers typically drive more traffic downtown so July and August could boost those revenue figures.
The implementation of the meters was a long time coming and had very divided views. Some argued that meters have created spaces downtown because downtown employees are now moved off of the main street. Others, however, argued that it would be bad for business.
The plan for metered parking dates back to December 2013. Then the city hired consultants Nelson Nygaard at a cost of $75,000 to perform a parking study, in which it determined higher areas of demand and proposed a plan to charge more for those spots and less for spots further away.
As of Friday, Tyer has not responded to iBerkshires' requests for comment about how the program has been working since going live. The city still has the option to expand the hours, change the prices, or back off the program altogether.
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