You can get a good idea about what happened to the plan to charge for parking on the seawall by looking at the city of Galveston’s draft budget, which was made public last week.
Voters approved the fee to park on the seawall to fund improvements, such as showers, drinking fountains and restrooms.
They deserve an accurate picture of what happened with this plan.
The 2013-14 budget projected revenues from the parking fee at $1.55 million.
With about three months to go, actual revenues for the fiscal year were estimated at $497,056.
Next year’s revenues are budgeted at $500,000.
When your actual revenues are a third of what you’ve budgeted, you’ve got a problem that you can’t possibly ignore.
Assessing blame at this point isn’t really helpful.
What would be helpful is a realistic accounting of expenses.
The research question is: Have so many expenses been added to this program — including the expense of four police officers — that it’s actually losing money?
The draft budget lists estimated expenses for 2013-14 at $188,202, meaning the program is expected to net $308,854.
That would be comforting if a lot of other expenses for the seawall parking weren’t over in the convention center surplus fund.
If all those expenses were counted, the parking program might not be breaking even.
That’s not clear because, as Steve Greenberg and other members of the Finance Committee have been trying to point out, it’s just been impossible to get a complete accounting of expenses for the seawall parking program.
If you counted all the costs, how much money would be left?
What would be available to fund all those promised improvements — showers, drinking fountains and restrooms?
Would you have enough to even maintain them?
Look for two things to happen.
First, soon after the end of the fiscal year, perhaps in early October, look for the new council to get a real accounting of costs and expenses.
Without good numbers, it’s hard to know what the city should try to do going forward.
And without a clear financial picture, even those who voted for the parking fee are going to feel let down.
Second, look for City Hall to hand this program off to the Park Board of Trustees, which is in a better position to manage it.
Both moves would be good things.
This plan is worth saving.
Despite the rough start, charging for parking on the seawall is still the right thing to do.
The seawall is arguably Galveston’s greatest asset.
It should be improved and maintained.
And visitors — not just island taxpayers — should help pay for it.