Chamber of Commerce very unhappy with Council’s handling of the budget

The Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce is very disappointed by City Council’s decision to approve the budget this week, with no adjustment to the 55% revenue contribution from the business community; representing 22% of the total property assessment value.

The 2016-2020 Financial Plan states that Council has an objective to: “over a four-year period, bring the tax ratio for commercial to residential closer to 2:1.” However, the Financial Plan notes that “the ratio of Class 6 (business) tax rate to the Class 1 (residential) tax rate in 2015 was 3.79:1. The ratio for 2016 is 3.84:1 based on current numbers and assumptions. Reducing the ratio in line with Council’s objective (2:1) will require further shifting of the tax burden from business to residential taxpayers.”

Such a shift would be fairer than the current ratio, Chamber President Randy Driediger said in a statement released on Wednesday, March 2.

“Adopting a fair contribution system, reduced spending and attraction of new construction would contribute to a more productive economy where businesses can thrive and increase employment and service, bringing value to the community at large,” he said.

The Chamber notes that the city’s spending ranks amongst the highest in the province on a per capita basis. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ 2013 Municipal Spending Report shows Revelstoke ranking 16th highest out of 151 communities. The 2016-2020 Financial Plan shows a 2016 staff cost budget of $7,484,400, a 12% increase over the 2014 actual cost of $6,668,949. Actual costs for 2015 are not yet publicly available.

“The BC Chamber recently reported one striking result of analysis of the disparity between business/industrial rates and residential rates, is that it becomes significantly greater in municipalities with higher expenses,” Judy Goodman, executive director of the Revelstoke3 Chamber said in the statement.

While the local Chamber supports a more timely budget approval process, the 2016-2020 Financial Plan was only released to the public on January 29 for comments to be received by February 17. The Chamber was taken aback to see that the council agenda of February 23 was calling for first, second and third reading to approve the budget with no consideration of the public comments.

“We are equally disappointed that Council chose to approve the budget without adjusting the tax rates by class and without all Councillors present,” the statement said.

Councillors Scott Duke and Trevor English were not present for the Special Council Meeting held on Monday, February 29, where the budget was passed.

As a last blast, the Chamber is very unhappy that the budget was in fact passed then. Goodman said a review of The Revelstoke Current’s video of the February 23 meeting showed that — starting with a discussion at the one-hour 40-minute mark — Council decided to postpone passage of the budget until its regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 8. Of course, that’s not what happened, as they gave the 2016 – 2020 Financial Plan first, second and third reading at the end of their special budget meeting on Monday, February 29.