During Rehoboth Beach’s budget process earlier this year, city commissioners adjusted the parking enforcement season to begin May 15 and made all metered parking $3 an hour. Early returns suggest the two changes have added a healthy chunk of revenue to the city’s coffers.
Previously, parking enforcement began the Friday before Memorial Day, while the price for some metered locations, mostly in residential areas, was $2 an hour. Both parking changes were made at the recommendation of city staff, who said the changes would make enforcement easier for parking enforcement staff.
During a commissioner meeting June 17, Interim City Manager Evan Miller reviewed parking-related revenue for May.
In 2021, May 28 through 31, the city saw about $140,000 in revenue, with about $83,000 coming during Memorial Day weekend.
In 2022, May 15 through 31, the city saw about $590,000 in revenue, with about $197,000 coming during Memorial Day weekend.
Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski said he was surprised with the revenue. The city added days at the beginning of the season, but it’s still much higher than expected, he said.
At some point, Chrzanowski said, he would like to see commissioners take another look at the capital improvement budget to see if there are items that could be addressed that weren’t when officials prepared this year’s budget.
It’s not just meter and permit revenue that’s up, so is the amount of revenue from parking-related fines.
As Chrzanowski has been walking around the city, he said, it appears enforcement has been pretty strong.
“Every time I walk, whether it’s on a metered street or a permit street, it’s ticket, ticket, ticket. They’re certainly doing their jobs,” he said.
According to the monthly police report for May, parking meter fines have gone from under $3,000 to under $30,000; parking violations from more than $1,000 to more than $6,000; and parking permit violations from $750 to $10,000. Chrzanowski asked Miller if those were correct.
Miller deferred to the Police Chief Keith Banks, who said they came straight from the parking department.
“I know we added 11 days to the beginning of the season, but some of these numbers are fairly significant. I just found those numbers surprising,” said Chrzanowski.
Commissioner Patrick Gossett said one of the possible reasons for the large increase from this year to last year could simply be that people weren’t here last year because of COVID.
Chamber reports slightly different outlook on early season visitation
Typically, Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart presents a business outlook and hotel stay information, but she couldn’t make the June 17 meeting so Commissioner Susan Gay, the city liason to the chamber, did so on her behalf.
Gay said, according to Everhart, based solely on available parking spaces and reports from various downtown businesses, that sales are not as strong and there has been a reduction in day visitors.
“In view of the parking revenue, that does seem a little surprising,” said Gay.
As for hotel occupancy, Gay said the chamber’s data shows the first weekend in June in all of the chamber’s area – 19971 ZIP code – was at 92% in 2019, while in 2022 it was 82%. However, she said, occupancy numbers for every day, January through Memorial Day, was 41,437 in 2019 compared to 55,998 in 2022.
That June weekend drop may have been because schools weren’t out, but as a percentage, there are simply more hotel rooms now than there were two or three years ago, said Gay.
“Occupancy in terms of raw numbers seems to be holding up very well and going up,” said Gay.
Rehoboth Beach will not have an election this year because only two people filed for this year’s two commissioner seats – Chrzanowski and Francis “Bunky” Markert. Gay is not running for re-election.
Commissioners still had to formally approve each candidate’s nominating petition, which was done unanimously during the June 17 meeting.
Following the approval, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said even though there will be no election, state law requires the city’s board of elections to convene and officially declare the two candidates elected. That’s set to happen about a week before what would have been the date of the election in August, he said.
Chrzanowski and Markert will be sworn in during the regular commissioner meeting Friday, Sept. 16.