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.

(5) comments

Ted Wagner

Perhaps your next piece, Heber, should center on WHY the Mayor, Council & City Manager fail to clearly address SW Parking questions, when the absence of basic accounting principles are so obvious. It's no secret that there's a push to increase the police budget, and that police were used to enforce/manage the program. Not claiming there's a link, but the perception is there -- just fair questions for the City to address, in the spirit of sound, project management principles.

Recall, detailed SW accounting questions were deferred from prior Leaders, citing lack of enough data to make informed decisions. They now have 1-yr of data (or enough data in-hand to make reasonable, forward-looking projections -- which is routine practice for successful project management).

Paula Flinn

"If all those expenses were counted, the (seawall) parking program might not be breaking even."

Wow! What an admission! "Greedy Galveston" better start enforcing the law if this city expects to see profits from this program. I cannot believe the way this big project was so mishandled this past year. No wonder the CC wants to hand it over to the Park Board.

Only Galveston could turn a "slam-dunk" into a "slam-junk", with no one accepting accountability for enforcing the law. Those of us who voted against charging for seawall parking are nodding our heads. Better hire those meter-maids. Extra policemen to patrol or enforce the law,will cost big money.

And, even with all that stinky seaweed, SW parking is bumper-to-bumper on week-ends and most week days this summer!

Steve Fouga

Yes, pflinn, you're absolutely right.

On one of my almost-daily seawall jaunts, I asked a lady issuing parking tickets whether most people paid for parking. She said it was about 50-50. I have no way of knowing if this true, but if it is it makes the math pretty easy. It's also clear that the lack of penalty makes the crime worth doing.

The fee is too low, too many people aren't paying the fee, the fine is too low, and too many people aren't paying the fine. Ergo, small revenue.

Ted Wagner

Without detailed accounting of expenses, and clear understanding of what such expense covers (ie, frequency of patrols/enforcement, etc), it's difficult to pinpoint real vs. perceived issues.

The City can do better ... but as been shown in other areas fundamental accounting principles are lacking. Question for CC, who should be held accountable for such obvious omissions in sound fiscal management?

Stevie Maradeo

How can there not be a clear picture of the expenses? Sounds like some people have their hand in the cookie jar and are fudging numbers.

And yet the city administration employee's are in the budget for a raise!

So they promise us a 2 cent tax rate decrease, but that's smoke and mirrors. Nothing is that good to be true. When I hear promises of "lower taxes", I hold onto my wallet and clinch my butt cheeks tight because someone is getting screwed.

I can't wait until i move from this greedy island.

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