TREASURE ISLAND — City officials are exploring higher parking fees to raise needed revenue and offset a possible tax increase.
City commissioners are considering raising meter fees for parking, particularly at beachfront lots. Some think increasing the current $1.50 hourly rate would reduce the need for a tax increase. City officials have proposed raising the property tax rate to $3.33 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable value. The current rate is $3.14.
Pay stations at the city's beachfront parking lots allow motorists to pay $6 for all-day parking. Charging an hourly rate, even at the current $1.50 an hour, could possibly double the revenue.
While Commissioner Alan Bildz is supporting an hourly charge, Commissioner Phil Collins thinks it would be more user-friendly to set rates in three- or four-hour blocks to allow beachgoers to have more time without having to feed a meter.
"With three- or four-hour intervals, people don't have to go back and forth all day," Collins said. "I don't mind the hourly rate, but it would be a major inconvenience."
Public works director Jim Murphy is getting in touch with the company that provides the meters to find out whether they can be reprogrammed.
"Maybe an hourly rate would be a fairer way to go," he said. The city has six pay stations with 200 to 300 parking spaces that generate revenue.
Murphy is looking through data to determine how much money is generated from hourly users and how much from those who pay the $6 all-day rate.
City Manager Reid Silverboard said St. Pete Beach recently approved raising its parking rates by 50 percent, and Madeira Beach also has increased rates.
The city is trying to find other revenue sources to pay for repairs and maintenance to its aging infrastructure, including bridges and roads.
Silverboard wants a tax increase in order to set up a renewal and redevelopment account to pay for current and future repairs and improvements.
"We simply have to recognize that we have facilities we have to maintain and we have no choice," he said.
Collins said Treasure Island has a "challenge with the sheer number of bridges we have."
Silverboard pointed out that only one street within city boundaries is designated a county or state road and that the city is "stuck with the maintenance" of local roads, storm drains and sewer lines.
"We are a more full-service city than any of our neighbors," he said.