Riverfront Garage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville has a bill to pay but doesn't have the money to pay it.

As the city stares down a growing pension obligation and budget shortfall, Metro Council will likely vote Thursday to increase the city's tax on some insurance premiums. On Monday, as Dan Borsch opened his fourth restaurant, Burger Girl Diner on Frankfort Avenue, he couldn't help but think of what that tax hike might mean for him and others.

"This is a noticeable increase, and I can absorb it, but there's a lot of people out there that this is a painful increase," he said.

But Borsch has an idea to help the city tackle its budget woes, and it's an idea that involves an asset almost everywhere in downtown Louisville and beyond: parking.

"That's a solution where we don't have to raise taxes," he said. "It's a win-win. We need to get it done."

Borsch wants the city to privatize parking garages and meters.

"Now's the time to stop subsidizing parking," he said. "We can sell the properties. We can make a good chunk of money and pay down some debt."

The idea isn't too far-fetched either. Right now, Metro Council is thinking about striking up a long-term lease agreement with a private company so that company can manage the city's many garages and give the city a sizable cash payment in return.

"I've spent hundreds of hours kissing frogs and going through and seeing what paths might generate revenue," said Metro Councilman David Yates (D-25), the chairman of a new committee seeking out efficiencies and new revenue for the city. "This seems like a very good possibility."

Yates said experts give Louisville's parking assets a potential value of $170 million, and he believes the city could cash millions of that in a public-private partnership.

But if a private company takes over, could the price to park go up?

Yates believes the market will ultimately keep prices in check, but he believes the city can play a role in preventing any gouging.

"We're limited only by the English language," he said. "So in the event that we say there can only be a 5 percent increase per year or 10 percent maximum at this amount, we can write that in there."

Councilman Anthony Piagentini (R-19), who serves on Yates' committee, is also a fan of the idea.

"This could dramatically impact our budget problems without negative impacts to citizens," he recently wrote on Twitter. "Nashville and [Indianapolis] have already done this."

Yates' committee has already received input from a parking industry expert who told members the idea does seem feasible for Louisville. Yates said he hopes to send out a request for proposals, with Mayor Greg Fischer's support, in just weeks.

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