The cost to taxpayers for Oyster Bay’s commuter parking lots is going up next year under the 2019 budget adopted last month.
The town’s tax levy for public parking is to increase to $7.3 million from $7 million in 2018, according to the budget. It was $6.7 million in 2017. The levy is paid by property owners in the town’s unincorporated areas and is the largest portion of revenue that funds the parking district’s $8.3 million operating budget.
Earlier this year the town board approved a 400 percent increase in parking fees that was presented as a way to reduce property taxes by shifting some of the burden of maintaining those lots to motorists who use them.
“This is a double hit for the residents of Oyster Bay,” Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr. said. Altadonna, whose office issues the parking permits, spoke against the parking fee hike in February before it was voted on.
“That was supposed to be down,” Councilman Anthony Macagnone said of the tax increase. Macagnone cast the lone vote against the budget adoption.
Town spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email Tuesday, "In 2020, we will be able to budget a larger amount for parking permits when compared to 2018, which will see the tax levy in the [parking] district drop accordingly."
The parking district fund ended 2017 with a $1.8 million accumulated operating deficit. Town officials haven’t said what they plan to do with the roughly $900,000 of additional revenue generated by the fee hike which was not included in the 2018 budget. It would not be enough by itself to eliminate the accumulated fund deficit.
Under the new pricing, resident permits that had been $20 for two years cost $100 for non-seniors. Village permits for non-seniors went up to $120 from $80. Seniors pay discounted prices.
Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said at a Feb. 27 meeting that they were “changing the fee structure in a way that's very fair to all.”
“We … want to make sure that the public who don't use the parking fields are not unfairly charged for the maintenance and that those who do use the parking fields share a more fair percentage of the cost of maintenance,” Saladino said, according to a transcript of the meeting.
Oyster Bay finance director Robert Darienzo told the board at its Feb. 6 meeting that the fee hike would create a surplus that would allow the town to cut taxes in the parking district.
“Moving forward in 2019, we will know about how much money we should receive on a year-to-year basis and we'll be able to correspondingly lower taxes in this district for all taxpayers,” Darienzo said, according to a transcript.
Parking fee revenue has historically gone up in even years when two-year permits are issued and down in odd years when permits are issued on a pro-rated basis.
The town’s parking district fund went into deficit in 2013, ending with a negative balance of $678,622, according to the town’s audited financial statements. That deficit increased in 2014 to $2 million, in part due to money transferred to fund capital projects. The accumulated deficit in the parking fund has fluctuated since 2013 but it has not been eliminated.