Iowa City sees significant decrease in revenue from parking in the first quarter

The city brought in almost $600,000 less from parking this quarter compared to last fiscal year’s first quarter because of COVID-19.


Kate Heston

The Harrison St. parking garage is seen on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020 at 175 Harrison St. The garage offers both temporary parking and permit parking.

Brian Grace, News Reporter

Iowa City reported a significant dip in parking revenue in the first quarter of fiscal 2021 because of COVID-19 — a difference of about $600,000 compared to last fiscal year’s first quarter.

Iowa City Finance Director Dennis Bockenstedt said the city has no current plans to make up for lost revenue, so residents won’t need to worry about increased costs on parking meters, ramps, or parking tickets.

Bockenstedt said the decrease in parking revenue could be largely attributed to the lack of traffic downtown as people social distance in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which he said was compounded by University of Iowa students going home early in the spring semester when classes moved online.

The city stopped charging people for parking ramps and reduced how much the city would enforce downtown parking meters in March, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan.

“The parking fine is one of the ones that’s been really hit hard by COVID-19, particularly starting last March and April where essentially all students went back home and a lot of businesses shut their doors,” Bockenstedt said. “So, at that point we lost a lot of parking revenue … we weren’t collecting parking fees, lease payments, or charging on-street parking.”

Infographic by Eleanor Hildebrandt/The Daily Iowan

According to the 2021 adopted budget, Iowa City’s parking fund is classified as an enterprise fund, meaning its revenue relies on people paying the city for a particular service.

The report said the estimated revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2021 was $5,141,800, though the city’s actual revenue for the first quarter only reached 22.9 percent of that goal at $1,176,726.

Infographic by Eleanor Hildebrandt/The Daily Iowan

The monetary difference between both fiscal years’ respective first quarter earnings is almost $600,000.

“If you’re thinking about it from a practical standpoint, $600,000 is a lot of money,” Bockenstedt said. “If you’re using that money to pay people’s salaries – customer service, parking enforcement – $600,000 can cover a lot of expenses and wages. It is a considerable amount of money being lost by the parking fund.”

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Budget and Compliance Officer Jacklyn Fleagle said in the city’s quarterly financial report that, in addition to COVID-19, the decrease in parking revenue could also be contributed to the city paying off its lease agreement with Capital One Public Funding on the Harrison Street Parking Ramp.

Paying off the parking ramp would help allow the city to streamline its monthly expenditures, Bockenstedt said, which included payments on the ramp since it was built in 2017.

Bockenstedt said the city began to see a turnaround in revenue from parking as students returned for the semester and businesses began to open back up and return to regular business hours, but that revenue isn’t yet back to where it would have been had COVID-19 not been a factor.

Iowa City City Councilor Laura Bergus said the parking fund could have potentially helped fulfill some of the goals outlined in a recent public-transit study presented to the council.

“The hope when that study was first undertaken was that we could support some of the transit expansion,” Bergus said. “Some of that could have been supported by parking, and I think we need to re-evaluate that given the lack of parking revenue.”