Chamber applauds UBCM efforts to strengthen cities’ finances

The Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce supports the Union of BC’s Municipalities’ (UBCM) efforts to strengthen local government finances.

“We are pleased with the announcement by UBCM as these issues have been of concern to our community,” Revelstoke Chamber president Steve Bailey said in a statement.

“Our Chamber Board has requested that local government look seriously at the budgeting process and expenditures to find efficiencies to minimize tax increases and reduce the business tax ratio.”

The Revelstoke Chamber staff and board have been promoting solutions to reduce the burden of business property tax rates, municipal cost control and economic development initiatives.

Currently, the Chamber’s role in economic development is focused on expanding and retaining existing businesses as well as actively prospecting for and soliciting unique, complementary new businesses to our community.

The Chamber team works closely with the City’s Community Economic Development Director Alan Mason to ensure that new opportunities receive the support they deserve.

The Revelstoke Chamber’s views mirror those of the BC Chamber whose president, John Winter, welcomed the UBCM’s “serious look at local governments’ financial sustainability,” said John Winter, the BC Chamber’s president and CEO. “But while out-of-the-box ideas will be needed to solve this, local governments can’t lose their focus on the tried-and-true financial practice of spending control.”

A hot topic at this year’s annual gathering of local governments, held this year in Vancouver, is the UBCM local governance finance committee report, Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint for Strengthening BC Local Governments’ Finance System.

The BC Chamber commends the overarching effort to tackle local government finances and supports:

  • the report’s call for local governments to become far more focused on facilitating economic growth;
  • the report’s recognition of the unsustainability of property tax as a funding mechanism for local government, given the substantial tax burden it places on the business and industrial sectors; and
  • the report’s call for a dialogue with business over property tax.

“This report correctly identifies the very real opportunities local governments have to facilitate and catalyze local economic growth,” Winter said in a statement. “By actively encouraging economic activity, municipalities and regional districts can strengthen their finances, create strong businesses and grow jobs in communities throughout B.C.”

Winter noted, however, that while the report offers an interesting discussion on growing local governments’ revenues, it misses an opportunity to emphasize cost control.

“It’s great to see an exploration of more sustainable funding models for local government, but that’s only part of the answer here,” he said. “As cost pressures increase, local governments need to commit fiercely to cost control, spending discipline, and project prioritization.”

Winter also cautioned that some of the report’s funding ideas won’t win backing from the business community. But he commended the overarching effort to launch a dialogue on strengthening local government finances.

“BC’s business community looks forward to a dialogue with local governments about more controlled spending efforts and appropriate funding mechanisms that can help businesses grow and produce jobs in local communities,” he said.