ST. PETERSBURG — Parking fines, among the lowest in the Tampa Bay area, will jump to $25 starting Wednesday — just in time for the Tampa Bay Rays playoff games.
The $7.50 increase, the first in more than 10 years, makes St. Petersburg's parking fines equal to Tampa's, but more expensive than Clearwater's $20.
Desperate for new sources of income, the City Council raised the fine as part of the 2009 budget. The higher fines are expected to generate an extra $250,000 each year and help cover expenses such as crossing guards, vehicle maintenance and rising fuel costs.
City officials argue that the current $17.50 fine doesn't discourage illegal parking, especially because the fee is often cheaper than some special-event parking, which can cost more than $20.
The city's $15 late fee on tickets paid after 15 days will not change. That means the total price of a late parking fine will be $40.
Downtown visitors and workers can expect to pay more than their fair share of parking tickets if they forget to feed their parking meters. There are 950 parking meters downtown, 150 of which were added this year to encourage parking turnover.
Downtown business owners said they welcome the parking changes because it helps bring in new customers every few hours.
"Just follow the rules, and you won't have to pay the extra fine," said Susan Robertson, a member of the Downtown Business Association and a spokeswoman for the Pier.
Kendra Rodriguez, co-owner of the Hooker Tea Co. on Beach Drive, goes out of her way to warn customers about the parking fine.
"If you get a ticket, that's a lot to pay for a cup of tea," she said. "We try to remind our customers, 'Hey, you haven't paid the meter in awhile.' "
But frequent parking offenders are less than thrilled by the more expensive fine.
"Everyone is looking for ways to make more money these days, but this is kind of ridiculous," said Nora Gaunt, 22, a server at Central Cafe & Organics. "That's a lot of money."
Gaunt rarely remembers to pay her tickets on time. With an overdue parking ticket now costing $40, she is going to have to remember, she said.
"That's what you make in a day," she said.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or email@example.com.