ST. CLOUD -- It could cost you a bit more to park in downtown St. Cloud in the new year. There is a proposal to raise the rate for metered parking from .50 an hour to .75 an hour, parking in the ramps would go up from .80 an hour to $1, and contract permits would go up 10 percent.

This would be the first parking rate increase for the city in 20 years.

City Finance Director Ruth Wipper says our parking rates are much lower than other Minnesota cities.

The average current meter rate in Rochester, for example, is $1.40 while we're currently at .50, Minneapolis is $2 and that's just an average, so we're well below there.  Monthly permit and ramp contracts, Rochester is $140, Duluth is $67, Minneapolis is $195, and we're currently at $48.90.

Public Services Director Tracy Hodel says the money collected goes into the parking budget, which pays for maintenance of parking downtown as well as staffing at special events like the recent Weihnactsmarkt.

Wipper says while we might not like the idea of having to pay to park downtown, it is necessary.

Well, nothing is free, so if the person using the service isn't directly paying for it then someone else is, and in our case, it would have to come from property taxes, so they would be the ones paying for the ability to park for free in the downtown area.

The parking budget has been operating at a deficit for the past several years and the city has been using reserve funds to balance the budget.

The St. Cloud City Council has set a public hearing on the rate increases for January 6th.

The parking budget is part of the much larger $48 million Enterprise Fund.  That fund is business type services that are funded by the fees they generate and don't receive money from property taxes.

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