Airport parking fees may go up

MANATEE — Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials are proposing a fiscal 2010 budget that could substantially raise the cost of parking there.

In a $22.1 million budget presented to the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority on Monday, SRQ officials are proposing to change the parking rate structure from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes.

Currently, it costs nothing to park in the airport’s short-term lot for up to 30 minutes; $2 for 30 to 60 minutes; and $2 for each hour thereafter. That would change to the first 20 minutes free, $2 for 20 to 40 minutes and $1 for every 20 minutes thereafter.

For the long-term lot, the charge would remain $2 for the first hour but increase from $2 for each additional two hours to $1 for every 20 minutes, according to budget documents.

Someone who parks for three hours in the short-term lot would pay $9 under the change, up from $6. Three hours in the long-term lot would cost $8, up from $4.

Despite the changes, the most anyone would pay would remain $11 a day for long-term parking and $13 a day for short-term parking.

Airport officials said the change would reduce a projected decline in parking revenue by $75,000. It also is in line with how nearby airports charge for parking and still keeps SRQ’s charges lower than airports in Tampa and Fort Myers, they said.

SRQ also is looking into possible sites for a cell-phone lot, but would only build one if it can “pay for itself,” said Rick Piccolo, the airport’s president and chief executive.

The proposed budget also calls for lowering SRQ’s landing fee to 84 cents for every 1,000 pounds, a drop of four cents and the lowest since SRQ’s terminal opened in 1989, Piccolo said. However, the airport would charge airlines slightly more for leasing space in the terminal.

Authority members applauded the moves, saying it should help make SRQ more attractive to airlines.

“We need to make ourselves as airline-friendly as possible,” board Chairman Eric Robinson said during the budget workshop.

The authority later set a Sept. 21 public hearing on the proposed budget and parking-rate changes, after which the board can adopt both.

Because it does not have the power to levy taxes, the airport must be self-sufficient. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.