The business community is championing fiscally responsible development, reasonable use of the business multiplier tax and an end to the dog ban in the weeks leading up to the municipal election on November 15.
“Some in the business community perceive there’s a relatively high percentage of taxation towards the business community compared to residential,” said Tom Thomson, executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.
He said the business multiplier tax, which puts an additional financial burden on businesses, is “considerably” lower in Nelson than some other municipalities in the province, and they’d like to see that continue.
“The city does a good job of keeping the business multiplier down, but they can use that multiplier to whatever degree they want. We have a strong small business community in this neighbourhood, but we don’t have a Teck or Celgar where a large amount of the taxation is coming from those big industry-type employers.”
He said the business community is aware of rising infrastructure costs, and the growing expense of traditional services like water and sewer.
“The business community and the chamber of commerce, we’re concerned about accountability and fiscal responsibility. The city has a $40-million budget. Are we allocating the funds the way we should be?” he said.
He said the business community currently has a strong connection to the city. Recently their concerns about the commencement of the Stores to Shores project and the impact it would have on tourism were addressed, and the project was delayed.
“That being said, the business community is invested in seeing the waterfront connected to downtown and we support the development, as long as it progresses in a reasonable and financially responsible manner,” he said.
“You have to make sure it’s done within the confines of what your current budget has to offer. We at the chamber believe there’s a need for planned, sustainable development and you need to grow the community. You need to grow the region. There has to be some growth,” he said, noting that means infrastructure will be strained.
“But you also have to realize that without development and without that new tax base it will continue to rest on residential and businesses who are there now. We don’t want to just grow at will, we want to grow with sustainability.”
Thomson also said the business community is increasingly concerned about the mentally ill and homeless people in the area who are not receiving adequate support, and are currently being dealt with by police who aren’t trained for the task.
The chamber advocated strongly for the introduction of Car 87, and continues to wait for a solution to a problem many say is driving down business and deterring customers from their Baker Street storefronts.
“If there’s issues of mental health, those are things we need to work on as a community. I think everyone has to work together, and the business community has to be part of it.”
But that doesn’t mean the business community supports the $311,000 increase the police department is asking for, because they don’t believe it’s a policing issue.
“Some of these problems need to be fixed by being fiscally responsible. Can the money be allocated from one resource to another to make sure we have Car 87? If you don’t have the funds to do it, how can we get the funds to do it?”
That means they would like to see funding provided for a social or mental health worker, but not additional police officers.
Another thing affecting the business community’s bottom line is the controversial dog bylaw.
“Downtown businesses are very much in favour of lifting the ban because they’re the ones affected by it. Most people complain to the business owners after they’re told by a bylaw officer to move. They’ll say they were planning to come in and buy something, and now they can’t, and quite often they’re really upset,” he said.
“I don’t know if you’d want to be as silly to have a referendum on a dog bylaw,” he said, but he believes the majority of business owners have been overruled by residents who support the ban.
Thomson said the city is in relatively good shape, and most businesses owners aren’t looking for a major shake-up, but something closer to a continuation of the status quo.
Thomson said there are no real looming issues or controversial developments, though the business community is pleased the Nelson Commons condominium project is going ahead, as it will continue to help grow the tax base.
He believes the fibre and broadband infrastructure recently installed in the city gives the community an opportunity to “kick things up a notch” in the coming years.
“It’s going to be an interesting election,” he said.
The election is November 15.