Portland raises parking garage rates as it finalizes budget

Portland City Manager Mark Rees (left) and Mayor Michael Brennan absorb discussion surrounding the city's fiscal year 2013 budget proposals at the end of a Monday, May 14, 2012, workshop in the council chambers.
Portland City Manager Mark Rees (left) and Mayor Michael Brennan absorb discussion surrounding the city's fiscal year 2013 budget proposals at the end of a Monday, May 14, 2012, workshop in the council chambers. Buy Photo
Posted May 21, 2012, at 9:04 p.m.
Last modified May 22, 2012, at 5:07 a.m.

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Portland's Elm Street parking garage is one of two city-owned parking facilities.
Portland's Elm Street parking garage is one of two city-owned parking facilities. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Prices in Portland city parking garages will be going up after the City Council on Monday night approved a fiscal year 2013 budget that includes $160,000 in additional revenue from the rate raises.

The $206.36 million municipal budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for hourly prices in the city’s two garages — on Elm Street and Spring Street — to jump from $1.25 to $1.75. The plan also includes an increase in daily rates from $12 to $21, and adds a $10 administrative fee on monthly parking space renters.

The parking garage rate hikes were the subject of much debate in previous meetings and workshops, with opponents saying the move would add another costly deterrent for tourists and shoppers coming to Portland’s downtown.

While most discussion of the garage price increases was exhausted in previous forums, city residents Steven Scharf and Robert Haines provided public comments on the issue Monday night.

“I’m happy with the parking fees going up to $1.75 to cover the costs,” Scharf told the council. “If that’s what it costs to cover the parking facilities, that’s what we should be charging.”

Haines suggested the price hikes aren’t necessary.

“Traditionally, we’ve tried to keep the prices down on parking, but you have to keep in mind that unlike the private parking garages that have to pay us taxes, city garages don’t have to pay those expenses and ought to be lower [in rates],” he said.

John Peverada, the city’s parking manager, told Rees in a memo that the new rates remain lower than the private garages in Portland. He also wrote that the $12 daily rate should have risen to $15 in 2007 when the council agreed to a rate hike at the time, but the increase was never implemented.

An effort to soften the increases was defeated by a divided council Monday night. District 2 City Councilor David Marshall offered an amendment seeking to raise the garage rates to just $1.50 per hour and $15 daily, but the change was shot down by a 5-4 vote.

Joining Marshall in favor of the lighter increases were Mayor Michael Brennan and councilors Kevin Donoghue and Ed Suslovic. Voting against it were councilors Jill Duson, Nicholas Mavodones, John Coyne, John Anton and Cheryl Leeman.

The councilors then unanimously approved the overall budget.

That larger spending plan will trigger a 2.9 percent increase in property taxes in the city, upping the property tax rate to $18.82 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

“We have increased taxes and fees, which for me wasn’t an easy decision, but to me was the right decision because it allows us to maintain services,” said Anton, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, Monday night.

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