Jekyll may up entry fee
Daily parking could cost $6
The Brunswick News
By Nikki Wiley
June 12, 2012
TO MAKE A COMMENT ABOUT THE PROPOSED RATE INCREASE, GO TO THE COMMENT BOX AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE.
Daily visits to Jekyll Island will cost more if a proposed parking fee increase gains approval.
The finance committee of the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the state park will ask the full board to add $1 to the daily parking - or entrance - fee, raising admission to the island to $6 per passenger vehicle.
The committee discussed the proposal Monday while reviewing a budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1.
Facing rising costs in day-to-day operations, finance committee members said they could not balance the budget without a parking fee increase. The full board will be asked to approve the budget when it meets at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Morgan Center, on the island.
In addition to a daily increase, weekly passes would increase to $28 from $24. Annual parking passes would remain at $45.
Committee members noted that daily entry to Jekyll Island would remain below that of other state parks that are operated by independent authorities. Stone Mountain Memorial Park and Lake Lanier Islands, both in the metro Atlanta area, both charge a $10 parking fee.
Jekyll Island's daily parking fee was last increased in 2009, to $5 from $3. The fee for buses was increased in 2010 to $10 from $5, and would not change.
"The annual fee allows regional residents to have some special considerations in using the island," said Jones Hooks, executive director of the authority.
Higher fuel costs and state employee retirement costs have helped push the island into a difficult budgetary position, Hooks said.
He said the increase was a last resort and was only considered after department heads were asked to minimize expenditures.
Finance committee chairman Mike Hodges said, "We don't take a raise in fees lightly."
The proposed budget reflects a transitional period. Revenue from three planned new hotels and retail space, expected to be under construction over the next year, are not included in projections.
A shortage of hotel rooms puts Jekyll in "uncharted waters," Hooks said. The closing of the Jekyll Oceanfront Resort, which shut down in January 2011, alone has cost the island $1 million.
Some meeting planners who have toured the new 128,000-square-foot convention center are hesitant to book events because of a shortage of hotel rooms.
Construction of a planned Westin hotel, a Hyatt Place hotel and 39 beachfront cottages has yet to begin. "The lack of hotel rooms on the island certainly creates a squeeze for us," Hooks said.
Overall, the proposed budget produces a net operating income of $269,072.
Unlike parks operated by the state Department of Natural Resources, Jekyll Island must generate its own revenue and receives no tax money for daily operations.
A 2 percent merit-based salary increase for Jekyll Island employees is included in the proposed budget. The last increase was in 2010.