NORWALK, Conn. – Money has piled up for Norwalk Parking Authority simultaneously with an increase in ticketing.
While Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia explained at Thursday’s Common Council Finance Committee meeting that the reasons for the increase in ticketing are separate from the increased fund balance, there was a consensus that the Authority’s efforts at improvement need to continue.
The Parking Authority’s 2017-18 proposed budget anticipates $972,714 in revenue from parking tickets, up from the current year total of $786,501, and about $1.1 million in the fund balance, or fund surplus.
A Board of Estimate and Taxation member recently called the $972,714 “extremely high and appeared to be relevant to the charge that we were being overly aggressive, in passing out the tickets,” Brescia said.
The “fact of the matter” is that Stamford, Greenwich, Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford get more revenue from violations, he said.
“While we would prefer that there was no revenue from violations, if you are going to have meters and you are going to try to create turnover some people are going to violate their time periods. So we wind up with ticketing. Ticketing is a fact of life as it shows in these other cities as well,” Brescia said.
Increased violations stem partially from more meters in the West Avenue area, and from increasing the hours, he said.
The current Authority is looking not to get caught short, attempting to balance long-term and short term planning, Brescia explained. This led to hiring parking consulting company Desman Associates in June, 2015, to do a parking study and then factoring in the results in the parking rates a year later.
The idea is to create turnover, rather than having people park all day in front of businesses, but the Authority was concerned about driving people away and has been comparing results to previous years, monthly, Brescia said.
There are “too many tickets” in SoNo and the Authority has scaled back its enforcement from midnight to 8 p.m., Brescia said.
There are near-term plans to try to create a better image for the Authority, and reduce ticketing, he said.
Soon, in limited areas and limited times, instead of handing out tickets enforcement officers will put a token in the meter and leave a note, giving motorists another 20 minutes, he said.
This will hopefully cut back on complaints about tickets issued when the driver was only three or four minutes late, he said. That will be in two different locations in the city, on different days.
The other idea he declined to discuss in public.
The Parking Authority is also concerned about the fund balance, he said, explaining that this stems from a conversation that Norwalk Administrative Services Manager Kathryn Hebert had two years ago with a member of the Finance Department, who said the fund balance was too low.
“We were building up to meet two months of operating costs,” Brescia said. “I will take responsibility for missing the fact that we made that up about a year ago.”
Now it’s a conundrum, he said, rhetorically asking if the Parking Authority continue to build the fund balance to be able to buy land or new products in the future, or cut back.
“We are wrestling with that and you may have some suggestions, too, but we have a long list of items in our to do list that are capital expenses and parking related, that add up to quite a bit of money,” Brescia said.
It’s a 25 percent increase in violations, Council member John Kydes (D-District C) said.
“I understand the reasons,” he said. “… I just think more can be done to lower the amount of violations.”
The tokens are a good start but they’re not enough, he said.
“We need to think outside the box here and do whatever we can, especially in South Norwalk area. I mean that’s the focal point,” Kydes said. “I understand there’s an increase down there but the restaurants and businesses aren’t seeing it. I know because I talk to them.”
Brescia said, “That’s high on our agenda.”
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