Municipal council gives tax break to local businesses

The Sun Peaks municipal council has decided to give businesses a tax reprieve for this year, setting the commercial tax multiple at 1.5. This will shift $78,000 of taxes to other property classes, predominantly residential. However, residents will still have slightly reduced taxes this year despite the shift.

“It was a tough couple of years for businesses,” said Sun Peaks mayor Al Raine. “Recognizing that it’s the businesses that employ most of the people in Sun Peaks, we can give them a small tax break for this year.”

To put it in context, the 1.5 business tax multiple means businesses still pay 50 per cent more per $1,000 of assessed value than residential assessments. The Province sets its business tax multiple at 2.45.

Municipalities are required to set their own tax multiples for businesses each year which applies to the municipal portion of the taxes.

“There’s good news for all taxpayers,” announced Raine. “When school taxes and policing taxes are added to the regional and municipal taxes, there’ll be a very small reduction in the average taxes paid by residential property owners too. Council members have committed at various times to maintain municipal property taxes at the 2009 levels and that’s still our goal.”

However, business owner Peter Ernst said he’d rather see the money being reinvested into better and expanded marketing that’ll benefit all the businesses in the community.

“As a gesture, it’s very much welcome that the council understands we’re in a little bit of trouble here,” said Ernst, who also sits on the council’s Business Advisory Board. But he said the best way to help the businesses is to fund an initiative in partnership with Tourism Sun Peaks that’ll support events and marketing, bringing long term business to the community.

“Some people do fairly well; they don’t need a tax break,” said Ernst. “There’s about six or seven businesses that I know that are really suffering. They might appreciate the tax break but it can’t help them.”

“With the slowdown of the economy and all that, we have to put extra effort in,” he said. Despite lower margins, Ernst’s restaurants pulled through this year but not without a lot of effort, which includes inviting live performers to attract business.

In response, Raine said the council was trying to directly help the businesses this year and that increased marketing for the off-season will still be supported. “The municipality should be receiving a portion of the hotel tax funding which we would then spend on off-season attractions marketing,” he explained.

“The marketing activities and funding, with the exception of the hotel tax money, is, in council’s mind, going to be driven by Tourism Sun Peaks.”

The council submitted a draft proposal for the B.C. Resort Municipality Initiative Program earlier this year to receive a portion of the Provincial Hotel Room Tax. The council has received no response yet.

“I’m hopeful that we will receive this portion of the hotel tax money and we’ll support additional marketing from those funds. Certainly, council made it very clear that 1.5 is this year only.”

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