- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Staff manning the gates at 25 of Connecticut’s state parks might have to brush up on their math skills because the new state budget requires them to charge visitors the 6.35 percent state sales tax.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is working on a way to levy the tax, which was tucked into the two-year, $40.3 billion signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on June 30. The new tax took effect on July 1. The agency said its parking fees and state park passes have not been subjected to state taxes before.

“DEEP is working with the administration to identify the path forward to implement the law, given the operational challenges and changing park cash management practices and public expectations,” said agency spokeswoman Cyndy Chanaca, adding that the agency was notified a day before the tax took effect on July 1. No exact date has been set yet for when DEEP plans to start collecting it.

DEEP expects it will generate about $210,000 annually for the state budget.

Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan said he knows the agency is concerned about the imposition of the new tax.

“This is a challenge I think they’re trying to deal with right now,” he said. “There are always little quirks like this.”

Language in the new state budget lifted the long-standing tax exemption for motor vehicle parking in all seasonal parking lots and hospital garages. It only applies, however, to nonmetered lots with 30 or more parking spaces, or 25 of the state’s 109 parks.

Chanaca acknowledged the change poses a challenge for the parks in the middle of the busy summer season.

The current fees range from $5 to $22 depending on the park, the day of the week, time of day, and whether the patron is a Connecticut resident. Chanaca said since the fees are based on round numbers, staff members typically don’t use coins.

“We need to have sufficient change on hand to return to people,” she said.

Only three state parks, Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme and Sherwood Island State Park in Westport currently accept credit cards.

Chanaca said the agency also anticipates visitors might have to wait in even longer lines at entrance gates due to the extra time it’s expected to take to settle transactions. She said some people begin to line up as early as 1 a.m. to snag a parking space and a good spot on the beach at some of the state’s shoreline parks. Over the July 4 holiday, DEEP had to close Rocky Neck to additional visitors after the park filled up.

Some other park fees are not affected by new taxation. For example, the admission fee at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill will not include a tax. There is no parking fee at that location.

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