Monday, November 09, 2009

But is the unstated purpose of raising Saturday parking fees to pay for a new convention center and hotel?

The knowledge now that Goldman Sachs has recommended that non-tax fees and fines that go into the General Fund be used to pay for future convention center/hotel construction debt has me casting a skeptical gaze now whenever I hear that Metro fees and fines are increasing, even when Metro officials give contrary reasons for the increases.

So, when the News 2 blogger, Christian Grantham passed on a newsdesk blurb that the Metro Parking Board voted to collect fees on Saturdays, I immediately tweeted Christian to ask him whether the fees would be going into the same General Fund that could be the Music City Center/Marriott Hotel's construction safety net. He did not know, so I turned to someone who seems to be one of the most knowledgeable people in Nashville on the proposed convention center outside of its cheerleaders, CM Emily Evans.

She steered me in the direction of a 2004 Sports Authority prospectus that seems to open the door to using parking meter fees via the General Fund to pay off MCCC obligations:
"Non-Tax Revenues" shall mean all income and revenues of the Metropolitan Government which, according to generally accepted accounting principles promulgated by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board and normal and customary accounting practices of the Metropolitan Government, are deposited to and become assets of the General Fund of the Metropolitan Government derived from any source other than income and revenues derived from the exercise by the Metropolitan Government of its powers to levy and collect taxes of any kind.
The term "all revenue and income" outside of taxes includes meter fees, and increases in Saturday meter fees.

Goldman Sachs seems to be advising Metro that it is going to need as much of the General Fund as it can muster to pay off the debt on the convention center/hotel construction. So, raising parking fees at least has a double effect that includes providing a hedge against MCCC overages. Even if the Mayor's Office won't admit it, they have been moving like a single-minded, irresistible machine on the convention center issue, and raising meter fees may be a way of staying ahead in this game without having to admit, "We raised fees on Nashville drivers in order to pay for our dream of a convention center/hotel in uncertain times and even if those funds don't benefit Nashvillians directly (as in the case of keeping parks and libraries open)."

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