Parking fees draw debate

Vernon politicians are being warned that changing parking rates now could hurt the bottom line.

Council instructed staff Monday to consider further options for variable parking fees downtown, but that could possibly take $107,000 to $190,000 out of the city’s 2014 budget.

“This is a substantial change in projected revenue,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer, adding that there is pressure to complete this year’s budget.

“We are running out of time to set the tax rate.”

Some councillors have suggested that parking fees in parts of downtown should be changed because there have been complaints from residents and merchants since the rates were hiked from 50 cents to $1 an hour in January.

Staff recommended Monday that the rate remain at $1 per hour, but presented two options based on lowering the rate on some side streets off of 30th Avenue or off of 29th, 30th and 31st avenues. The financial losses could range from $107,000 to $190,000.

“That is a very conservative number and I’m concerned the revenue drop could be significantly more,” said Pearce, adding that in 2015, the full-year revenue decrease could possibly be from $160,000 to $285,000 depending on the option that is selected.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham, who has a business downtown, says the current $1 an hour rate is causing significant problems for residents.

“People feel that they have no options,” she said.

“People aren’t parking, they aren’t doing it.”

That concern also came from Coun. Brian Quiring.

“We’re hitting downtown negatively and we need to do something about it,” he said.

However, Mayor Rob Sawatzky stated that it takes city revenue to maintain the parking spaces.

“If we have chased people from going downtown, why are all of those spaces used?” he said.

As part of its upcoming report on possible changing parking rates, staff will consider alternatives to taxation to make up any shortfalls in revenue.


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