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Don’t Charge Your Employees
One idea that has repeatedly made the rounds is to have Dartmouth employees pay a premium for center-of-campus parking, i.e. $50/month for space in the heart of campus and $10/month in the satellite lots. Currently one price of $30/month fits all in the pricing of College parking. The theory behind this proposal is that the administration would not be making invidious distinctions in allocating parking privileges between the lesser-paid staff and the more-richly-compensated faculty — no value judgments, please! — but the end result would be what so many members of the faculty pray for: staffers would feel the impact of high fees more than professors and the former would naturally gravitate to the external lots, leaving faculty members easy access to parking close to their offices.
This is a silly idea for several reasons. First off, there is nothing wrong with distinguishing faculty members from staffers. Professors come and go during the day; rare is the prof who spends all day in the office. In contrast, most staffers, from deans to janitors, arrive, park, and put in their hours. They don’t work from home or run errands during the day, or come and go to see students or colleagues, like members of the faculty do. Right there you have enough of a reason to privilege the faculty with more convenient parking.
But short of this empirical distinction, there is no shame in saying that faculty members are the most important group of employees at the College. That’s why we pay them more for their time on the job than almost anyone else. As part of their compensation, and to maximize their productivity, we should also provide them with desirable parking.
Not only that, parking should be free for everyone. The core argument for this proposal is simple. It is fiscally inefficient for an employer to pay employees a salary, have the employer pay payroll taxes on that salary (±8%), have employees pay their own taxes (payroll taxes of ±8% and income taxes at marginal rates north of 25%), and then ask employees to turn around and pay the employer for parking with after-tax money.
For the College to collect a $50/month central campus parking fee from a professor, it would have to pay out over $80 in salary to the professor, to Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and the Federal government, etc. The only winner in this situation is the IRS.
Instead, just give parking to everyone for free: offer profs special central-campus tags and staffers regular tags for Dewey and Thompson, etc. To cover the lost revenue that Dartmouth currently earns or might earn, trim everyone’s raises a little next year. Professors will be so busy lining up to thank Phil for improving their daily lives that they won’t care about the slightly diminished pay increase that they receive.
Of course, students, too, will benefit from the increased availability of their profs, who now can come in from Norwich, Lyme, Lebanon, Thetford and so on, to meet with them. Today the cost in time of that trip — when a prof is forced to bus in and out to a satellite lot — is often just too high to make it worthwhile.
And, as an added bonus, the people who have been wasting time collecting the revenues from the 2,000 or so parking stickers that are out there today can be asked to do something else for the College or for another employer.
Addendum: In my local business, employees park in the deepest recesses of the parking lot so that customers may park close to the entrance of our building. Customers come and go throughout the day; employees arrive and leave once. Everyone understands the reasoning behind the policy.
Addendum: A senior faculty member writes in:
Nice to see the parking post today. I remain in disbelief about the parking policy here. My junior colleagues come in from Lebanon, park at a meter while they go to a meeting, teach a class, or meet with a student, then race to get back to their car before 120 minutes elapse… and drive home. As a consequence, they show up on campus less frequently and don’t hang around as long as they would if they could park and forget about their cars.
I’ve noticed the same with senior faculty who live far out and have offices at home that are larger and quieter than their offices on campus. No doubt in my mind that reducing the obstacles to parking on campus will significantly increase the number of hours faculty spend in Hanover. They will probably publish a little less; but they’ll talk with students a little more.
Mea Culpa Correction: It seems that under IRS regs (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-13-08.pdf), employee payments for parking my be deducted from salaries on a pre-tax basis, i.e. no Social Security, income tax, etc.
Section 132(f)(2) provides that the amount of fringe benefits which are provided by an employer to any employee and which may be excluded from gross income under section 132(a)(5) shall not exceed $100 per month in the case of the aggregate of transportation in a commuter highway vehicle and any transit pass, and $175 in the case of qualified parking.
To err is human; to forgive divine. Please be divine.
Addendum: A senior professor makes an additional point:
One point you didn’t mention: Who has to lug laptops, books, and papers between home and office? Staff? Not so much. Faculty? Yep. Deans? OK, deans. Yet the faculty have to park in outer Jablip while the staff snap up the close-in spots, typically having to carry not much more than their lunch. As I’m getting older, my shoulders are becoming increasingly unhappy.
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