Existing businesses in Sidney will no longer have to pay $100 for renewing their business licenses.
Council on Monday unanimously approved amendments to the municipality’s business license bylaw. It will still require businesses to renew their licences annually to keep their information up-to-date with the municipality and undergo regular fire inspections, but without the $100 fee.
New businesses, however, will still be subject to the fee. Businesses can renew their licences online or in person with the municipality until Feb. 28, 2023 after the process opened on Nov. 29.
The previous council had tasked staff to bring forward the amendments at the last meeting before the Oct. 15 municipal election.
Mayor McNeil-Smith said at the time that a perpetual business licence would not only streamline the renewal process, but also save staff time and therefore money.
Coun. Terri O’Keeffe offered a comparable argument in arguing that it would reduce red tape.
“It gives us a business friendly reputation in the CRD,” she added.
Council’s initial decision to task staff to develop the scheme was unanimous, but residents also heard some concerns from then-councillor Barbara Fallot when she asked staff about the benefits. Andrew Hicik, director of corporate services and chief financial officer, said it would save businesses $100.
“For us (Sidney), it is the appearance of being supportive of the business community in that respect,” he said.
Fallot then questioned the tangible benefits of the measure and wondered if the measure would not lead to higher taxes for business owners, whether they own their own building or rent.
Within this context, she pointed to a staff report that pegged annual licence fee revenues at around $85,000. “If a perpetual licensing scheme is confirmed, the primary remaining revenue stream would be from new applications,” it reads. “(These) revenues are projected to be approximately $10,000 per year.”
In short, Sidney stands to lose about $75,000 in revenue — at least on paper — and the municipality would eventually have to make up that shortfall through higher taxes — taxes impacting business owners.
“It’s a little bit, right-hand, left-hand,” said Fallot, adding it doesn’t make sense to her at the time.
Hicik acknowledged that business owners would have to bear a portion of the increase, but the figure would be “negligible” as the “bulk” of the increase would come through residential property taxes.
In the end, Fallot voted for the measure.
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