Schools across San Francisco are strapped for cash, so for those around Golden Gate Park, this month’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was a big opportunity. Over the festival weekend, Parent Teacher Associations manned the schools’ parking lots, charging concertgoers up to $25 to park.
But some PTA volunteers were surprised when inspectors from the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office showed up during the weekend and demanded that they collect a 25 percent tax on parking.
“We had no idea,” said San Francisco Parent Teacher Association President Michelle Parker. “They haven’t been collecting it until now anyway.”
Parker said PTAs have been running these fundraisers during major events such as Outside Lands and Fleet Week for many years. The events can raise as much as $5,000 a day, she said.
“What’s really great about parking fundraisers is you’re not pulling from the school community,” said Parker, whose organization assists school-based groups.
The tax has been on the books for many years and applies to every parking operation, from downtown garages to dirt lots near the ballpark, said treasurer’s office spokesman Greg Kato. The tax, most of which is earmarked for the Municipal Transportation Agency, is levied against the customers rather than the operator, but the operator must pass the revenue to The City.
“We do have a team of investigators because we want to make sure we collect the same tax for everyone’s sake,” he said.
Kato said that Treasurer José Cisneros, who is charged with enforcing the law, met with Parker and school district officials last week to explain how the tax works.
School Board President Hydra Mendoza, who attended that meeting, said district lawyers were studying the law to see whether it applied to nonprofits.
“It’s just surprising that it would apply to a fundraiser,” Mendoza said. “This is a little fundraiser that schools have three, four, five times a year. It seemed a little harsh."
Parker said if lawyers find that the law does apply, the PTA will work with the Board of Supervisors to get it changed.
“The harder you make it, the kids are the ones who lose,” Parker said.
Meanwhile, the district PTA is advising school groups running parking fundraisers to set aside some of the money, just in case the taxman comes around again.
$70 million Parking tax collected during the last fiscal year
$25 Approximate charge to park in a school parking lot during a special event
$5,000 Potential daily revenue for a school parking fundraiser
750,000 Approximate attendance at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Source: Treasurer’s office, PTA, news reports