Sarasota spends tax dollars to buttress St. Armands parking plan losses

Editor & Publisher

The Sarasota City Commission authorized a loan from the General Fund of $140,000 to cover losses experienced in the St. Armands Parking area fund.

City staff said the infusion of money was needed to offset a decline of revenues from the parking garage and paid parking due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie was bothered by the idea of calling the transfer from the General Fund a loan and doubted that it would be repaid.

City staff said the intent is to pay the money back to the General Fund once business returns to normal out of “excess net parking revenue.”

The City borrowed $17.5 million through the issuance of bonds, which is supposed to be paid in part through hourly charges for the garage, on-street meters, as well as through a special assessment on St. Armands commercial property owners.

If there is a shortfall, the resolution adopting the bonds pledged General Fund revenue as the source for payments. General Fund revenues are paid by property taxes imposed on every owner of property in the City.

Freeland Eddie stated that there would never be an excess of parking revenue and that the General Fund would likely never be repaid.

City Manager Tom Barwin said there will be an earmark showing that the money is owed and there might one day be enough money from parking to pay back the $140,000.

The General Fund loaned more than $380,000 to the City Parking Fund in 2018 and the General Fund loaned $130,000 in 2019 for the purchase of the parking meters for St. Armands Circle. With the additional $140,000 transfer this year, it brings a total of $652,190 owed from the Parking Fund to the General Fund.

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