Repeal of park parking fees gaining support

By Richard Yager….
Three of five commissioners representing Kendall have indicated they will back repeal of the $5 parking fee scheduled to begin at six Miami-Dade parks on Oct. 1.

Miami-Dade Commissioners Joe A. Martinez and Carlos A. Gimenez have told the Gazette they will seek alternate methods of funding while commission chairman Dennis Moss said he would delay his decision until discussion and vote of the full commission on Sept. 21.

Only Katy Sorenson, among five commission members whose districts include Kendall, opposes Commissioner Javier Souto’s resolution to cancel the fees sought by the Parks and Recreation Department to offset $8 million in budget cuts during fiscal year 2010.

Gimenez indicated that a reduction in automobile expenses he is studying could save up to $1 million annually, more than the $750,000 that Parks director Jack Kardys indicated was needed from additional parking fee revenues to maintain current service levels.

Kardys projected loss of 20 employees in addition to 95 already cut from the Parks Department payroll if new parking revenues were not implemented.

As members of the commission’s Recreation, Tourism and Cultural Committee, Souto, Bruno Barreiro and Rebecca Sosa voted in favor of the repeal during a Sept. 13 meeting. Sorenson voted against repeal along with Commissioner Sally Heyman, both noting the Parks Department would need such funding to continue facility maintenance.

With Commissioner Audrey Edmondson also indicating support for the repeal, a pre-vote total of at least six of 13 commissioners back Souto’s effort, while two opposed.

The decision on $5 parking fees occurs simultaneously during ongoing commission deliberations to find up to $444 million to balance the fiscal year 2010-11 budget.

The $5 fees would be charged weekends and holidays at A.D. Barnes, Tropical, Indian Hammocks, Kendall Soccer, Larry and Penny Thompson parks in southwestern Miami-Dade, and a part of Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah.

In proposing the repeal, Souto said, “This is a regressive tax that will hit middle- and lower-income families hard, and was passed without any input from voters.”

Souto said he felt it unfair for citizens who may be faced with a 12-15 percent increase in property taxes to pay additional parking fees for use of parks and programs.

Heyman and Sorenson in opposing the change pointed out that several major county parks already charge parking fees, and voiced concerns about cutting services elsewhere to make up for any deficiency.

The $5 fees approved in 2009 for the 2010 fiscal year originally were to become effective during the July 4 holiday but Souto led opposition to beginning the new charges during a June session of the commission’s subcommittee.

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  1. Charging a parking fee is more about maintaining and increasing government workers jobs than welcoming the tax payer citizen to use their city ammenities by making them as user friendly as possible. Maintainance and security are really the only park services that should be funded. Other county or school employees can surely be used to fill in the odd job at a park during summer time or during the week to offer sports and fitness programs. With good benefits and salary these employees should be used to the utmost of their time and energy as they would be in the private sector.

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