Parking was an issue of interest covered at the New Paltz Village Board meeting of June 27. A hearing was opened on charging drivers for Sunday parking in metered spots, another hearing was set on increasing the fines for overtime parking and a town resident is seeking to cut a deal on his many overtime parking tickets.
Right now, parking is free at metered spots on Sundays and during the holiday period. The reason for changing this is twofold: it would increase revenue for the village itself, and it’s believed it would increase revenue for local business owners, as well.
According to Mayor Tim Rogers, the 262 meters bring in an average of $300 per day, with an average of 50 overtime tickets being handed out daily on top of that. After paying someone to write those tickets, he projects additional revenue of $31,680 annually.
This is a subject dear to the hearts of downtown business owners, because those spots get filled up with local tenants seeking a shorter walk home when the time limit is lifted on Sunday. Rogers said that the owner of Jack’s Deli is “incredibly passionate about this change,” and Bakery owner David Santner said that the current situation “hurts us terribly,” asserting that business owners generally support the measure.
Not everyone agrees.
“Even New York City meters are free on Sundays,” said Todd Matthews. Santner later dismissed that as a vestige of the blue laws keeping retail shops closed, but he didn’t address Matthews’ others points. As the owner of 5 Academy Street, he opined that drivers will seek the nearest free parking, even on private property such as his own.
Further, Matthews questioned what would happen when services are held at Goodwill Church; that application received Planning Board approval based on available parking, and with a two-hour limit they could run the risk of a ticket if they remain too long at building that spiritual community.
Rogers said that other alternatives aren’t viable. The mechanical meters are coin-operated, meaning that something must be put in the slot to make the timer start, and reprogramming the amount charged would result in a labor cost long to recoup. Likewise smart meter options, such as those allowing for payment via phone to avoid the need for coins, would be a difficult investment to justify.
Trustees did not raise whether linking parking habits to smart phones raises security or privacy concerns, or how such concerns might be addressed. Deputy mayor KT Tobin, when she remarked on the possibility, focused on the possibility of “quarters going away.”
The mayor does not believe simply raising property taxes alone to address rising expenses is fair, because many people who avail themselves of the village do not live within its boundaries. Regardless of his personal philosophy, tax cap legislation makes such increases politically difficult.
Sales tax is shared in a way that doesn’t meaningfully offset the costs associated with the many out-of-town visitors: more than $11 million is collected a year in zip code 12561, yet only $225,000 comes back to New Paltz. A longstanding agreement sends all that to the town treasury to pay for community-wide expenses; otherwise about a quarter of that amount would be paid directly into village coffers.
If Santner and the unnamed business owners he spoke with are correct, presumably sales tax revenues would rise if meters are switched on seven days a week. That’s not how Jessica Beyers sees it, though: she told trustees that the possibility of getting a ticket sends her shopping where the parking is free, such as Rosendale, Gardiner and Kingston.
Another person not in favor of the expansion would stand to gain $140 a week if the law is passed: Myra French, who currently writes the Saturday parking tickets, acknowledged she could well add Sunday to her schedule. French was opposed, she said, because it’s a “friendlier thing to keep Sundays free,” adding, “I want to keep New Paltz friendly.”
Trustees left that hearing open until July 11, and set another one for that date about hiking the parking ticket fees. Currently, they cost $10 if paid within five days, after which they go up to $20 each. The proposed change would see a $20 ticket that costs $30 as of the sixth day instead. An additional administrative fee, which kicks in after 30 days, would not be changed.
The mayor said that with both new laws in place, a conservative estimate is that $50,000 in new revenue would hit village accounts. That’s based on the average figures previously cited, but French testified that on Saturdays she writes 80 to more than 100 tickets. If Sundays are similar, Rogers believes it could mean a net of $100,000 per year to offset potential tax increases.