Mission business owners will soon be seeing a newly modified version of proposed business licence fees.
On Monday, council met to debate the controversial increases that were made public earlier this month.
Two weeks ago, district staff sent out a letter outlining new business fee categories and price levels. Some business were facing increases of more than 1,000 per cent (from $148 to $1,490) while others saw proposed increases of more than 5,000 per cent ($148 to $10,000).
The backlash from businesses was almost instant.
Mayor Randy Hawes said, although staff did exactly what council asked them to do, council should have put their “lens on it” first.
“Staff were asked to build an economic model around cost recovery, send it out to the community and ask what they think. But, as we look at the cost-recovery model, it is very clear that it is highly punitive to some businesses,” Hawes said.
He added now that council can see what cost recovery would look like, “It’s our job to say, OK, if we go to cost recovery, what will be the repercussions?’ ”
He said council needs to make some changes and adjustments.
Daycare is one example. The new proposal suggested that a daycare with more than three children should see its fee raised from $148 to $1,490 per year.
“Here we are as a country and as a province, trying to get the daycare cost down and we’re going to increase costs. That doesn’t make sense,” Hawes said.
“It seems to me that anything to do with daycare that requires a business licence should all be in the lowest level ($250) and maybe even in a level lower than level one.”
Coun. Jenny Stevens agreed, saying she supports subsidizing the cost of children being cared for safely.
Another controversial topic up for discussion was applying business licence fees to people who rent out homes.
Hawes told staff that he believed they should just “drop it.”
“We are looking at the rental stock that we have and it’s not sufficient and yet we are going to throw an anchor to the people who are providing some rentals?”
There was also discussion regarding realtors and whether the agency needs a licence or individual realtors need them, depending on whether they are employees or not.
Staff will be getting back to council with more information.
Councillors slowly went through each item on the proposal, making suggestions and asking questions. They also suggested that a phase-in proposal could be created to slowly implement a new plan of fees.
Staff will now get back to council with a modified proposal, with adjusted rates focusing on what is a reasonable fee, rather than what is a cost-recovery fee.
“I think what we are going to put out next is going to look a fair bit different than what was put out to the public before,” Hawes said.
Once a new version has been created, a public open house will be scheduled to garner feedback.