Parking executives fill City Council hearing on rolling back tax

Posted: March 24, 2011

Three years after the city raised the parking tax from 15 percent to 20 percent, industry executives filled City Council chambers with their workers Wednesday to ask for some relief.

The answer they got back: We'll see.

Councilman James F. Kenney has introduced a bill that would roll the tax back to 15 percent over the next five years, but the Nutter administration opposes the cut.

Kenney said during a public hearing on the measure that talks with the administration would continue to decide a "fair level" for a tax cut. His bill was held in committee, and he said he expected more public hearings on the matter.

"I've agreed that we shouldn't have a higher parking tax than New York," Kenney said. New York's parking tax is slightly higher than 18 percent.

Any cut would have to be offset with new tax revenue, he said. The parking industry has suggested several measures, including cracking down on more than 100 unregulated lots that pay no taxes.

Robert A. Zuritsky, president of Parkway, the parking management and real estate development company, said that in addition to paying $12 million more in taxes to the city in 2008, when the tax increased, lots and garages lost $30 million that year because of the recession.

"A $42 million hit in one year," said Zuritsky, who also heads the 17-member Philadelphia Parking Association.

Parkway went through its first-ever large-scale layoffs and wage freezes, he said. Business was down about 8 percent after the tax hike and has yet to recover fully.

"We're hurting," Zuritsky said. "We need some relief. We hope the city hears us."

Parking rates have remained flat or even dropped since the tax increase, he said. Profit margins are so thin, he said, that companies cannot make improvements and investments.

One South Broad Street garage owned by Central Parking is using just the first floor because the elevators that had moved cars are old and need repairs, Zuritsky said.

"If we can't fix and maintain our garages and if we can't pay a decent wage, long term our industry is going to suffer," he said. "Business is still terrible. What's going to happen? I don't know."


Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 215-854-2730 or tgraham@phillynews.com.

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