MADEIRA BEACH — Parking meter revenue is expected to jump nearly a half a million dollars this year, swiftly closing in on property tax revenue as the city's largest source of funding.
This burst of new money comes at a time when the city is spending millions for a new city hall, fire station and recreation complex, and for improvements to infrastructure and the city's marina.
"You and me and the staff may have been labeled as spendthrifts, but when you reinvent $450,000 in new revenue a year, you can afford to do some of the things you are doing. Congratulations," City Manager Shane Crawford told the City Commission this month.
The best part for residents is that this new money is coming out of visitors' pockets. Residents park for free.
The reasons for the increased parking revenue are severalfold, according to Crawford:
• An increase in parking fees instituted last year.
• New digital pay stations that make it easier for people to both pay and park for long periods of time.
• An aggressive marketing campaign that is bringing more people to the community.
"That is outstanding, guys," said Mayor Travis Palladeno.
The city increased parking fees from $1 an hour to $1.50 last year and replaced all of its coin meters with digitally operated pay stations.
Twenty-nine pay stations cover 541 parking spaces citywide. Eleven are in John's Pass Village, four are in South Beach at John's Pass, three are at Archibald Park, and others are at the city's smaller parks.
When city officials originally estimated revenue for the 2014 fiscal year, they knew there would be additional parking revenue but had no idea how much.
City officials estimated the increased parking fees could generate $200,000 or more in the coming year — nearly enough to offset the annual estimated $300,000 cost for debt service for the planned new city hall, fire station and recreational complex.
Instead, revenue soared, and this month the commission revised its budget to account for a $450,000 increase.
The anticipated 59 percent increase brings total parking revenue to slightly over $1 million.
Property tax revenue is expected to total about $1.46 million this year.
"This estimate is pretty reasonable, but we are still hopeful we will be in a better position at year end," finance director Vincent Tenaglia said.
One reason for continuing parking revenue growth is the city's increasingly aggressive campaign to attract visitors.
"You guys have changed Madeira Beach, and people are coming here," Crawford told the commission.
In recent months, the city has stepped up marketing, putting ads in airline magazines and hiring an outside coordinator to publicize its expanding event schedule.
One of the newest events is a Midweek Market, held every Wednesday on Madeira Way, which will be completely closed to traffic during the day.
In other financial moves, the city expects to save about $50,000 a year by switching to an outside service to process parking meter fees collected in the Pinellas County beach parking lot.
The city also decreased its anticipated debt expenditures by about $28,000 while authorizing $25,000 in new spending for beautification and safety improvements at John's Pass Village and other parks.