Easton City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on the 2013 budget, which is balanced in part by raising rates at Downtown parking meters from 50 cents an hour to $1.
Next year's budget keeps Easton's property tax rate the same, but increases several fees for various city services.
The city is dealing with a rise in pension costs -- which prompted it to create its "commuter tax" earlier this year -- as well as an increase in sewage treatment costs. It's hoping to use parking revenue to fund the Easton Main Street Initiative, which oversees numerous Downtown programs.
Council spent part of its workshop meeting Tuesday night on a last-minute debate about the parking changes, which also include new enforcement hours.
Under the new plan, Easton's parking enforcement officers would be on patrol until 8 p.m., rather than 6 p.m. And the days of parking for free on Sundays would end, with new enforcement hours from noon to 6 p.m.
At the same time, the city will lower its rates in its parking garage after 5 p.m., from $2 an hour to 50 cents an hour, said city Administrator Glenn Steckman.
"We’re going to have to change people’s patterns, and have them understand the deal is in the garage after 5," he said.
Councilman Roger Ruggles worried the changes were unfair to some downtown Easton visitors. He argued that the new hours would penalize people who came downtown to eat from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but not those who visited from 8 p.m. onward.
“By that theory, unless we charge 24 hours a day, we’re being unfair to someone," countered Councilwoman Elinor Warner.
She said that later enforcement hours would keep people from doing multiple things Downtown, such as eating at a restaurant and then going to the State Theatre.
Mayor Sal Panto said he will meet with pastors from downtown Easton churches early next year to discuss the changes. He said the city will give the churches placards to hand out to their members to avoid tickets after noon on Sunday.
The city is also trying to convince more residents who live downtown to purchase passes that would be allow them to park downtown for $100 a year.
Council is scheduled to vote on the budget tonight at 6 at city hall.