Proposal to lower Phila. parking tax passes committee

May 11, 2011 2:40:17 PM PDT
A proposal to reduce the parking tax in Philadelphia has made it out of committee and is now headed for the full city council.

Parking garage operators call it a victory, claiming that, at the current rate, they cannot afford to maintain facilities.

Seats in council chambers were filled with members of the parking industry on Wednesday for the second and final hearing on the parking tax by the City Council Rules Committee.

Back in 2008, the parking tax shot up from 15 to 20 percent, yet the parking industry argues they were forced to absorb that cost and keep rates level due to the economy.

"We could not raise rates, it was in the middle of a recession and our customers could not afford increased rates, so we've had to hold our rates," said Philadelphia Parking Association President Robert Zuritsky.

The Philadelphia Parking Association is asking to restore the 15 percent tax rate, but council members acknowledge that could be difficult, despite what they agree is a steep rate.

"Personally I think 20 percent is a high tax. It's even higher than New York, which sounds a little out of whack here in Philadelphia," said Councilman Bill Greenlee (D).

"Anytime you're trying to reduce a tax, it's complicated," said Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr.(R).

Garage owners say they haven't had the resources to add new parking spaces, even though business is supposed to increase with the expanded Convention Center.

The parking industry believes that if taxes were collected by the unlicensed city lots, parking tax revenue would still increase.

Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson counters that the number of those unregistered lots is far less than the industry has submitted.

"We continue to do parking audits that we've been doing since the administrators started back in 2008," Richardson said.

The Parking Association calls the proposal's passage a victory, but adds there is still more work to be done.