Chamber fee proposal shot down

Approximately 470 Campbell River businesses belong to the chamber out of more than 2,000 businesses registered in the city.

Council turned down an initiative by the Chamber of Commerce to reduce fees for local businesses with the mayor saying the chamber needs to find another way to attract members.

At last week’s Tuesday council meeting, councillors rejected a $50 reduction in licensing fees for businesses that hold a membership with the Chamber of Commerce. Michael Boulet, president of the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce, said the incentive was crafted by City of Campbell River and chamber staff as a way to increase membership with the chamber.

“The purpose is to assist in creating greater inclusion of local business membership within the Chamber of Commerce,” Boulet told council.

Currently, approximately 470 Campbell River businesses belong to the chamber out of more than 2,000 businesses registered in the city. Mayor Walter Jakeway said he’d like to see more.

“I’m a member of the chamber and I attend their meetings. I’ve challenged them to find out why the majority of businesses in town don’t join,” Jakeway said. “Rather than trying to do it with money, they need to find out why they’re not meeting the needs of all those other businesses.”

Councillors Andy Adams and Mary Storry had other concerns.

With $50 knocked off the price of the $150 annual business licence fees, the city stands to lose between $20-to-$25,000. Adams said that’s a decision he didn’t want to make so close to the Nov. 15 municipal election date.

“I think this is a good initiative by the chamber but I don’t think it’s appropriate to encumber a future council to deal with that,” Adams said. “We’ve gone this long without it, I think putting it off until January isn’t too onerous.”

Adams asked Boulet whether the Chamber would be open to an incremental increase.

“Appreciating that it’s a $20-to-$25,000 revenue stream coming from taxpayers coming from the city, would the chamber be adverse to say a $25 reduction in year one and maybe another $25 in year two on the premise it had shown some positive results in year one?” Adams asked.

Boulet said the chamber would likely be in favour of that, but as a second option.

Coun. Storry, meanwhile, was concerned the city is not in a position legally to grant the reduction.

“Our Community Charter won’t allow us to assist one business over another business,” Storry said. “Are we assisting the chamber to grow by discounting the business licences? Are we taking $25,000 out of the taxpayer purse to assist the chamber?”

Coun. Claire Moglove was also not too sure.

“I’m concerned about the optics of us incenting businesses to join the chamber,” said Moglove who added she would like to see more research into business taxation.

Council agreed with Moglove and voted to have city staff conduct an in-depth analysis of the business licensing and taxation model sometime next year.

Council also voted to defer any decision regarding business licence fee reductions to the 2015 budget deliberations in January.