After requesting a review of the village's current fee schedule during the last budget process, trustees considered doubling the price of railroad parking permits charged to village commuters from $50 to $100. According to Village Auditor James Olivo, an increase has not been done in at least five to seven years and is considered "on the low side." The Village of Mineola charges residents $55 for railroad parking permits.
Trustee Thomas Lamberti, who commutes to work via the Long Island Rail Road, said the proposed 50 percent increase was completely unfair. He argued that the numerous parking fields around town are free for residents and non-residents to shop and go to work unlike the parking fields at the various railroad stations. He understands the desire to increase revenues and keep the tax rate at the lowest possible level but not at the expense of commuters who have already been hit with Long Island Rail Road and New York City subway increases.
"In my mind, to raise the fee on a commuter who is a resident and pays real estate taxes is a commuter tax on residents ... As a CPOA board member, I chastise the former mayor on this issue and as a current board of trustees member, I oppose it," he said.
Trustee Nick Episcopia, who also opposed doubling the fee, thought Trustee Lamberti's point was very well taken. "We're not Great Neck or other villages that all have meters everywhere," he said. "When you put that kind of a huge percentage increase and lay that on top of huge percentage increases to commute on the railroad, I believe it's an unfair tax on commuters. I believe, perhaps, it could be raised somewhat but to double it is just not right." He suggested charging people who use the parks, since Garden City parks are intended for Garden City residents only.
Trustee Donald Brudie, he too a commuter, concurred. "My objection to this is not solely selfish. I look at the parking lot as a privilege for residents. The purpose of the parking sticker is to keep non-residents away so you have spaces available for residents who do commute. You can do that with a sticker, charging the same thing you do for the refuse. I think doubling the fee is outrageous ... It's a tax targeted at commuters." Trustee Brudie further noted that despite paying for a permit, commuters are not guaranteed a parking spot in any of the village lots.
Deputy Mayor John Mauk, who also commutes but walks to the station every morning, however, thought the 50 percent increase was quite reasonable. "I go back to the genesis of this at which time we were trying to pass a budget and looking around for other sources of revenue for the village other than to increase village taxes. Many of us said at that time, 'What could be fairer than to charge those who benefit from some of the village amenities?' I do think an increase to $100 - given what's provided here to the average commuter - is not an awful lot of money."
With the majority of trustees commuters, Trustee Robert Rothschild thought it prudent to review all the various charges. "We should look back on all the fees we just raised because we're picking out one that hits us at home. I don't know if the residents are going to like that idea." He offered another way of increasing revenues: the Garden City Country Club recently requested authorization to conduct its annual fireworks display Sept. 4. "Guess how much they pay for their permit?" Trustee Rothschild asked. "One-hundred dollars ... Cherry Valley [Country Club] does the same thing. So here we have $200 the village got for these two events, which I bet cost more than cleaning the parking lot for the railroad."
According to Olivo, the $50 fee generates a little less than $40,000 a year in revenue. If the fee were raised to $100, the village would gain approximately $80,000 in revenue.
Was a 25 percent increase more reasonable? Deputy Mayor Mauk asked that of fellow trustees. The board felt an increase from $50 to $75 was more appropriate and voted accordingly. Residents must renew their permits by Sept. 1.