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Parking Lot Lease Could Ease IU Budget Woes

Parking Ticket

Photo: Will Wamathai / Indiana Public Media

IU grosses $23 million a year in parking fees and fines but spends about that much on campus bus service and other expenses, meaning it nets little to no profit.

State budget leaders say they are not sure what effect, if any, the leasing of Indiana University’s parking operations to a private operator would have on state appropriations to the school. But one state lawmaker says he will not let other schools attempt to use it to IU’s disadvantage.

When The Ohio State University leased its parking operations to an outside firm for the next 50 years, it netted just less $500 million. That, in turn, set Indiana University leaders, already strapped for cash, to work.

In a couple weeks, IU Chief Financial Officer Neil Theobald will meet with the school’s financial advisors in an attempt to determine whether parking operations on the Bloomington and IUPUI campuses should be similarly mortgaged. But Theobald says reaping potentially hundreds of millions of dollars from a private parking operator is not meant as a message to those holding the purse strings in the Indiana General Assembly.

“This is more of a response to the state than any kind of partnership with them,” Theobald says.  “Saying ‘Ok, the trend has been downward, it looks to be very likely that Bloomington will again go down in the next biennium…’ If we’re going to be taking money away from these campuses, the old model was ‘Ok, the state takes money away, we raise tuition’. We cannot continue to do that.”

State Budget Committee Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) says he would want to converse with IU leaders about how they plan to spend any money they raise, but says there are not any specific avenues he would like them to pursue. However, Kenley says if the windfall comes up in discussions with leaders of other schools during the upcoming budget session of the legislature, he will not look kindly on other public institutions trying to make the case they should get more money than IU because of the parking operations lease.

“My response to that would be ‘You need as creative or as businesslike as IU in terms of evaluating what all your resources are and don’t rely on them or their efforts to justify your case,’” Kenley says.

Theobald stresses IU has not yet decided to give up running its own parking lots and garages, but does note that though parking brings in $23 million a year in Bloomington and Indianapolis, the university spends the cash to subsidize bus service and offset other costs, so profits are all but nonexistent.

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