Lake Geneva city officials are boosting the cost of parking downtown and of visiting Riviera Beach to offset a projected $400,000 budget deficit blamed on the coronavirus.
Under a deficit plan approved June 22 by the Lake Geneva City Council, parking will increase from $1 to $2 an hour throughout the city’s downtown, and admission to the public beach will increase from $4 to $8 for children.
Both increases won unanimous approval from the city council as a strategy for resolving the expected budget deficit attributed to revenue shortfalls elsewhere caused in part by the coronavirus public health crisis.
The final package of rate increases differs significantly from what a city council committee had recommended.
On parking rates, the finance, licensing & regulation committee had recommended boosting parking from $2 to $3 an hour in prime areas along the city’s lakefront, and leaving the rate at $1 an hour elsewhere.
But the council opted to leave the prime parking at $2 an hour and increase the rates from $1 to $2 an hour throughout the rest of the downtown shopping and tourism district.
To avoid hurting business at the Lake Geneva Public Library, the city will create five parking spaces in front of the library with 30-minute free parking.
The council also increased from two hours to three hours the amount of free parking available daily to Lake Geneva residents.
Several alderman said they felt the $3-an-hour rate for prime parking was too high and would negatively affect downtown businesses, and also would discourage residents from going downtown.
Alderwoman Shari Straube said she did not to hurt downtown merchants, especially after most businesses were forced to close temporarily this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The store owners have suffered a lot. The residents have suffered a lot,” Straube said. “The store owners just can’t mark up their merchandise to make up for those losses.”
Alderman John Halverson said the parking rate increase elsewhere from $1 to $2 an hour would help the city offset its budget deficit and would not have as much of an impact on business owners.
“The $2-an-hour will give us the revenue we’re looking for,” Halverson said. “Plus, it will be a relief for the downtown.”
Alderman Richard Hedlund said he supported the move to charging $3 an hour for the most prime spaces along the lakefront, because most of the people who park in those areas, he said, are from out-of-state.
Hedlund said boosting parking to $2 an hour elsewhere downtown would hit local residents in the pocketbook.
“If you make it $2 all over town, you’re hurting the locals,” he said.
The aldermen also unanimously agreed to charge an $8 beach admission for Riviera Beach for both adults and children. The rate is unchanged from adults, but it is doubling for children, from $4 to $8.
The finance committee had earlier recommended increasing adult admissions from $8 to $10 and increasing children admissions from $4 to $5. The child’s rate applies to beach goers aged 7 to 12, while kids under age 7 get into the beach for free.
Straube said she felt the a $10 adult admission would have been too costly for families.
“I think $10 sounds a little high for our beach,” she said. “That adds up very quickly.”
Halverson said he agreed that the proposed $10 adult rate was too much money.
“I think the $10 increases the rate exponentially when people are paying for three kids and two adults,” Halverson said.
Parking Operations Manager Seth Elder said having a uniformed beach admission rate for both children and adults would make it more convenient for people to pay for their beach passes, because they would not have to enter different amounts for children and adults when they are paying at beach kiosks.
“It would dramatically improve the customer experience with traffic flow,” Elder said. “Overall, it would increase the efficiency of the beach operations.”
Hedlund said he felt $8 was a fair rate for beach admission. He noted that Lake Geneva city residents get a break on beach admissions, with rates of $3.
“No matter what we charge to get on the beach, we’re not effecting the citizens of Lake Geneva,” he said. “We’re affecting the tourists.”
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