The income the City of Ballarat gathers from parking will stay well below pre-pandemic levels, council documents indicate.
Archived budget plans and annual reports suggest parking fees consistently brought more than $4 million in overall profit to the council in recent years.
That is set to dip significantly in the next financial year, the current draft budget shows - with profits projected at a fraction of their previous level.
In figures listed under the parking management header in the draft budget, the income for the 2019/20 financial year was listed as almost $4 million. There were three full months affected by COVID-19 restrictions, but the council still gained a $1.97million surplus in spite of the restrictions imposed from mid March.
That income is set to fall by more than two million dollars for this financial year, with a surplus of just $20,000 projected overall in 2020/21.
While parking income is slated to increase by a little more than $150,000 for 2021/22, the surplus is projected to be $278,000 - a long way short of previous years.
A City of Ballarat spokesperson said: "The loss on paid parking revenue last year relates to the opening up of Creswick Road [Car Park] as free parking and periods of time when on street parking was free out of consideration for residents and businesses coping with the impacts of COVID."
The city's "Smarter Parking" scheme had been brought in just prior to the pandemic, giving the first hour free.
There are also plans to bring 1000 more free car parking places to the city as part of an election promise made in the run-up to the 2018 state ballot. That commitment will not be delivered prior to the next state election, The Courier has learned, with works due to be completed in late 2023.
The City of Ballarat's director of development and growth Natalie Robertson said more detail on sites for the state government-funded free parking would go before council soon.
"We've identified three sites that would be a quick win," she said on the launch of the budget to public consultation. "We could produce some additional car parking quite quickly because the work has already been done."
Ms Roberston said feasibility on whether to continue the lease for the 290-space Creswick Road site was currently underway. The lease for that site is due to expire in January next year.
Larger locations could deliver the bulk of those 1,000 free car parks, Ms Robertson suggested, with multi-deck car park construction likely.
- To have your say on the draft budget, see mysay.ballarat.vic.gov.au. Open until June 7.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thankyou very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.