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Should St. Francis charge for parking?

Members of Evanston’s Parking Committee learned Wednesday night that the city rakes in about $500,000 a year from taxes it collects on parking fees charged at Evanston Hospital.

That led Alderman Colleen Burrus, 9th Ward, to suggest that city officials should talk to executives at St. Francis Hospital about ending its free parking policy so the city could collect the tax on fees people would pay to park there.

"Even if it’s half of what Evanston Hospital generates, it could be significant money," Burrus said.

St. Francis, which is located in the city’s 8th Ward, eliminated parking fees in the hospital’s garage and lots some years ago in an effort to reduce on-street parking congestion in its high-density neighborhood.

The parking tax generates a total of $1.8 million in revenue for the city each year.

About one-third of the revenue — or $650,000 — comes from tax payments included in monthly permit fees in the city’s own garages. After Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University is the biggest private source of parking tax revenue at about $440,000.

Parking garages at downtown hotels and office buildings account for the rest.

City officials are in the midst of trying to find ways to close a projected $8 million gap in next year’s city budget.

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