City Council considers increasing parking fees to address budget shortfall

Saturday, August 30, 2014 | 10:32 p.m. CDT; updated 3:12 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 31, 2014
The city plans to increase the cost of parking meters In the heavily used downtown parking area of Columbia.

COLUMBIA Parking meters might soon run longer and cost more.

In an effort to address a $30,000 budget shortfall, the Columbia City Council is considering:

Parking by the numbers

The city has:

  • about 2,000 metered street spaces
  • six parking garages
  • 424 metered spots in garages
  • 2,068 permit spots in garages

  • keeping parking meters running an hour later, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • increasing meter rates by 15 cents an hour
  • creating a minimum 3-hour period for meters that accept credit cards
  • establishing a 50-cent fee for credit card payments to meters
  • increasing the price of parking garage and lot permits by $5 per month

It's unclear how much money these measures would raise for the city; revenue projections were neither included in the proposals nor discussed at the city's budget work sessions. City Manager Mike Matthes last week said the increases were necessary to help the balance its budget.

The proposals don't affect MU's parking meters.

The council will vote Tuesday on the proposed parking rate increases along with several other fee increases listed in city's proposed budget.

Although the proposed fee increases are not popular, First Ward City Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick, who represents the downtown area, supported the increases Saturday during the council's budget work session.

"The way I see it, parking downtown is at a premium, which is why you have to pay for it," Chadwick said.

The recommendation to adjust the hours of enforcement stems from a Jan. 15, 2013 report given by Columbia lawyer Skip Walther, the chairman of the parking task force. The parking task force did not recommend expanding enforcement hours, but members did note the "significant activity after 6 p.m." downtown made later hours more potentially lucrative than earlier hours.

Dave Dollens, a retired MU custodian and 40-year resident of Columbia, was disappointed in the actions of the council.

"In my opinion, this is the worst city council we have had here in 40 years," he said.

Dollens, who lives in the First Ward, said he regrets voting for First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick.

"The members of city council do not care about the people like me, the retired, or the poor or the people who actually live here," Dollens said.

Paige Zohoury, an MU journalism student who works downtown at the Jamba Juice, said for a college town, the council's proposal was "bad for business."

Tawna Woods, who declined to say where she worked downtown, agreed with Zohoury and blamed the council for not thinking about the impact this increase would have on workers downtown. 

"To park downtown (in a metered space), it costs me almost $8 a day, unless I decide to park several blocks away from where I work," Woods said. "All this proposal is going to do is steer people and eventually businesses from downtown."

Greg and Tina Bloom, a couple from Boonville, said paying the meter for their Friday evening date night was not enough to make them deter their plans.

"It really is pretty reasonable," Greg Bloom said. "I do not think the rates are excessive at the moment. However, if parking downtown becomes an issue, it will definitely impact our plans in the future."

However, Tina Bloom expressed concern that downtown Columbia would become like the couple's former home, Portland, Ore.

"They raised the rates so high, it became almost impossible to want to park downtown," Tina Bloom said.

Supervising editor is Adam Aton.

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Mike Martin August 31, 2014 | 8:12 a.m.

The idea that Columbia city government has "budget shortfalls" of any kind -- in parking, utilities, infrastructure, etc. -- is complete hogwash. If anything, the city has tremendous surpluses. Why else would city manager Matthes propose City Hall buy the old Ameren site in the North Village Arts district using "the city's cash reserves"?

Voters and taxpayers need to understand that budgets are choices. Choices made by politicians and political appointees -- like the city manager -- about how and where to use current and future funds.

The REAL picture of the city's finances does not come from the city manager's budget, but from an annual, audited document called the CAFR -- Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. That document shows a City Hall flush with cash -- some $144 million in "unrestricted" funds alone -- money that can, by definition, be used for any purpose the City Council -- via we citizens -- wants.

These rate increases merely pad the pockets of banks that invest the money or keep it on deposit and developers, who've been enjoying the benefits of giant parking garages for tenants and guests, all taxpayer subsidized.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 31, 2014 | 1:22 p.m.

"The proposals don't affect MU's parking meters."

MU has parking meters? My goodness! Next MU might come up with something truly exotic such as parking garages. :)

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