‘A stark reality’: City of Prince Albert sees significant decrease in parking-related net revenue

A parking meter sits outside Prince Albert City Hall. -- Herald file photo.

The City of Prince Albert’s parking-related net revenue has plummeted since COVID-19 hit, but City administrators say that trend is reversible.

Planning and Development Services Director Craig Guidinger said revenues for 2022 and 2023 are just over $600,000. That’s a sharp drop from the more than $1.2 million in parking-related revenue the City collected in both 2017 and 2018.

Expenses have increased significantly at the same time, Guidinger said.  From 2016 to 2018, total parking expenses were $269,000. Between May 2022 and May 2023, the City saw expenses of more than $352,000.

The list of expenses includes wages and overtime pay, snow removal, and electricity, among others.

“It was kind of a stark reality for us,” Guidinger told council during a presentation at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting. “Those revenues have certainly been impacted over the last number of years.”

Despite the dire picture, Guidinger said this trend is reversible. On Tuesday he received approval from city council to begin developing a plan to increase revenue. He’ll present that plan at an upcoming executive committee meeting. Council did not give a specific deadline.

“We have identified a number of areas where we feel we can establish some efficiencies,” Guidinger told council. “We feel that we can establish, potentially even, some reductions in costing.

“This revenue for the City … is very key to our budgeting. It represents a large number—hundreds of thousands of dollars—so we want to make sure that remains intact. We want it to grow over time, so we’re going to be very carefully looking at what we’ve found over the last year or so of this project.”

Mayor Greg Dionne said he expects revenues to rebound as economic activity in the north increases. Dionne said they see a significant decrease in revenue at the airport parking lots when mining activity slows down, but he told council that’s going to change.

“Uranium mines are going to fire up … so then it’ll be coming back to the airport because they fly in two weeks in and two weeks out,” Dionne said.

“It’s all based on the mines and what the mines do,” he added. “If they’re fully operating, we make the money. If they’re closed, we don’t.”

Airport Pay and Display revenue was one of the few instances where the City is making more money now than they were pre-COVID. However, the regular airport lots saw a decline of roughly $153,000 in annual revenue.

Parking ticket revenue was hardest hit. The City is making roughly $172,500 per year less than they did on average between 2016 and 2018. Parking meter revenue also hit a steep decline, dropping by nearly $156,000 per year.

Tuesday’s executive committee discussion focused on two areas: parking ticket revenue and downtown parking revenue.

Parking tickets account for 38 per cent of the City’s parking-related revenue, the largest amount out of any of the five parking revenue sources. However, the City has struggled to collect on those tickets. As of 2023, there the City faces roughly $1.4 million in unpaid parking tickets.

“It’s sort of a vicious cycle, even when we for a while had the police towing for enforcement, (and) we were bringing in a lot more revenue,” City of Prince Albert Bylaw Services Manager Trina Wareham told council.

“We just keep writing tickets, so it just keeps growing. It doesn’t really stop. It’d be a really big job to get that (outstanding ticket number) down.”

Dionne told council the $1.4 million figure isn’t a true reflection of what the City is owed. He said that figure includes uncollectable ticket debts. The actual collectable number, he argued, is much more reasonable.

“We allowed write-offs every year,” Dionne said. “Some are uncollectable. Some are 10 to 12 years old…. I think in the future we have to use a realistic amount on what’s collectable and first of all, we should start taking off (from) that $1.4 million, the allotments we’ve allowed for the losses.

“When I hear $1.4 million, I get mad, but when I hear the real number that’s collectable, I calm down,” Dionne added.

Coun. Blake Edwards said that number of uncollected parking fines was unacceptable. Edwards said it doesn’t make sense to hand out fines unless they’re going to collect. He also promised to bring the issue up at budget time.

“Someone needs to come up with a solution on how we have to collect from the violators, or why even ticket them,” Edwards said. “It makes no sense to me. We’ve seen and heard that there has to be a new solution come forward, and we’ve heard some of the ideas, but nothing has changed.

“I’m not blaming the department because we’ve heard the requests, but there needs to be some solutions coming forward, whether that be on the police side of things, or our side of things. It’s crazy that we have all of these violations continuing to pile up, yet we write them off eventually, but it’s still outstanding to the City. Hopefully, we can regroup and make some changes—necessary changes.”