Making good on one of her campaign promises, new City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is kicking off a performance audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority to look at whether the agency could provide more funding to Philly schools, she announced on Wednesday.
“Over the last few years, aggressive ticketing practices, frustration over the amount of funding provided to the School District, and revelations about workplace culture problems – including sexual harassment and excessive pay and benefits – has left many Philadelphians distrustful of the Philadelphia Parking Authority,” Rhynhart said during a press conference on Wednesday alongside State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. “Our audit is looking at on-street parking expenses, specifically, because every dollar saved on the expense side is another dollar that would go to the School District.”
It will be the first city audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) since 2009, and is expected to take seven to 10 month. DePasquale released a blistering report in 2017 on the agency that said from 2012 to 2017 the agency failed to provide $77.9 million in revenue to Philly schools, mostly in the form of unpaid tickets. He also criticized the agency for the conduct of former executive director Vincent Fenerty, who earned $223,000 a year, was revealed to have sexually harassed at least two female employees, been allowed to keep his job, and later resigned with a massive pay-out ($227,000 for severance, including $120,000 in 1,000 unused vacation hours, a $158,628 annual pension for life, plus 15 years of health insurance).
Now led by executive director Scott Petri, the PPA says it has met some 90 percent of DePasquale’s recommendations and was recently accredited “with distinction” after an internal operational and financial review by the International Parking Institute.
“We look forward to working with the City Controller to continue making the PPA more efficient and customer-friendly,” Petri said in a statement.
But some still believe the PPA may not be effectively meeting its obligations to the School District. City Councilwoman Helen Gym’s office said in a statement the PPA’s contributions to the School District have declined since the 2012 peak of $14 million, while staffing and salaries have risen, claiming that the PPA’spayroll costs for administrative support rose 50 percent from 2013 to 2016.
“I’ve been alarmed at the Parking Authority’s declining annual contributions to our public schools,” Gym said in a statement. “I look forward to finally having a full analysis of the ballooning expenses and administrative bloat of this agency.”
Rhynhart’s audit is intended to study the expenses of the PPA’s operations, looking at staffing levels, salaries and other expenses. All “on-street parking revenue” collected by the PPA, from parking meters and parking fines, is split between the city and the School District after the agency’s expenses are paid, so lower expenses would mean more money for schools, Rhynhart said.