Council triples seniors parking pass to $7.50 per month

There are 650 seniors parking passes in Nelson, with the number growing every year.

There are 650 seniors parking passes in Nelson

There are 650 seniors parking passes in Nelson

Nelson city council has raised the cost of a seniors parking pass from $30 to $90 per year.

Bev Fischer, president of the Nelson Seniors Citizens Association, told the Star her members are shocked because the cost was tripled without warning.

“It was huge surprise to them. They were stunned.”

Mayor Deb Kozak said $90 per year amounts to $7.50 per month, and she doesn’t think that’s such a bad deal.

“Well, looking at it like that,” Fischer said, “perhaps it should be presented to the seniors that way. But they were not prepared for this $90 big chunk, it was not explained to them in this way.

“We would welcome the mayor to come and explain it to us,” she said. “This might calm people down.”

Kozak said there are currently 650 parking passes issued to seniors in Nelson, a number that has doubled over the past few years. She said the number of passes might become unsustainable because they replace parking meter revenue.

Tripling the price of 650 passes would bring revenue of $58,500 to the city, but Kozak said she expects the number of passes could keep increasing.

Fischer says her association has about 150 members and doesn’t know how many use the passes.

Paying for paving

Parking meter revenue and the revenue from the seniors parking pass is considered by the city to be a fee for service, not a tax. The money all goes into the paving budget, the same as the residential water fee keeps Nelson’s taps running.

In its budget deliberations over the past month council decided it has been under-funding paving in the city for the past several years and needs to raise the paving budget from $600,000 annually to $1.1-million.

That means finding the money to pay for the increase without raising property taxes. The city’s Chief Financial Office Colin McClure told the Star last week that this will include an increase in parking meter fees, although the amount of the increase has not yet been decided.

He said the paving gap will also be filled this year by $255,000 in new construction income, and with money from the federal gas tax fund.

Seniors are ‘a force to reckoned with’

Mayor Deb Kozak says the decision to raise the rate was a difficult one.

“We talked about it long and hard.”

She said some councillors wanted to get rid of the passes while others wanted to increase the price. She noted that many cities have no parking discounts for seniors.

“So council said OK, we still want to give seniors a break,” Kozak said, “but what is a reasonable amount for people to pay for parking? The conversation went on for some time, but what people felt was reasonable was $7.50 a month.”

Kozak says she expected some pushback.

“I cautioned council, I said this will be a big one. Seniors are a force to be reckoned with.”