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At last week’s Finance Licensing and Regulation (FLR) meeting on Tuesday, January 22, 2020, there was another parking presentation. The parking rate increase from $2 to $3 is all the talk around the city hall, in the downtown business district, and with the residents of Lake Geneva. With all the demands for different options and the numbers to back up the options Lake Geneva’s Parking Department (basically Sylvia Mullally the manager) has been working overtime. The city wants more revenue to balance out the city budget, the business owners want prime parking to stay the same, residents want more parking at a lower cost, and no one seems to want to budge unless they can get what they want.

Again, parking was the top item at another meeting. The last FLR meeting revisited the issue after giving the Business Improvement District (BID) a chance to hold a special meeting to brainstorm and share ideas. The BID meeting concluded with a list of parking scenarios for the parking department to outline with numbers and stats of what each would look like as far as revenue is concerned. Kevin Fleming from the BID (who seems to be the spokesperson for the BID regarding this topic) once again spoke, backed up by Bennett, was not happy with what he thought was a lack of answers he felt they would receive before the meeting. Who does the parking manager work for? The city wants revenue and directed the parking manager to focus on that, but the BID demands their requests be met. Sylvia came to the meeting prepared and had three of the top options laid out neatly.

Sylvia started by acknowledging the fact that parking is an issue that affects everyone and clarified what the city needs to balance the budget. There are only so many ways to raise revenue: raising taxes, raising lakefront fees, or raising parking fees.
Option one, for raising parking revenue, is to go to two dollars hourly city-wide for the parking year (March 1st through November 15th) $350,000 – $400,000 based on 2019 numbers.
Option two is go to three dollars only in the lakefront areas which includes Main Street, South Broad, South Center, and Wrigley Streets during the regular parking year while keeping the dollar parking everywhere else that’s eight hundred stalls that would remain a dollar and three hundred stalls that would be three dollars, which would bring in $300,000 to $400,000.
Option three is to go three dollars for three hundred stalls for three months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, bringing in $200,000. One additional way to help balance the budget, as well as motivate non- compliant parking payers, is to raise the parking tickets from $20 to $40 dollars.

Sylvia believes these three scenarios are the most realistic choices, especially option three. These options would not add additional expenses to the city nor require additional staff.  This did not, however, please Fleming and Bennett who wanted more options presented. What are they thinking? Do they really believe they will see a slew of options and then get to pick the one that best suits them? Do parking rates statistically decrease the number of visitors coming to Lake Geneva for shopping and eating in downtown?  This is dynamic pricing and retail and service businesses all run their businesses around it.

The FLR committee decided to continue the issue once again to give the BID more time to hold another meeting to narrow down what they really want. Alderperson Skates added a final thought that might help balance the city budget stating: “Why doesn’t the city cut back on the spending? If we don’t have it we don’t spend it.” Sylvia stayed after the meeting and shared numbers with Fleming regarding what parking looks like before and after paid parking hours. The numbers were so meager the graph chart wouldn’t even display them. Sylvia also took the time to break down, street by street and time period by time period, what parking looks like and what it has the potential to bring in. The Gage boats, downtown shop hours, and eatery hours all have a huge impact on when and where the parking is full. After this one on one question and answer time with Sylvia Fleming still did not seem pleased.

And so the parking rate saga continues.

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