Local disputes small business inequities

Wayne Brown addressed council saying that he is unhappy with some of the inequities that exist

Local business owner Wayne Brown addressed Village of Burns Lake council during their meeting last week, saying that he is unhappy with some of the inequities that exist within the local business community.

He said that 2012 is an expensive year ahead with significant increases in premiums and taxes from BC Hydro, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), Employment Insurance premiums, Medical Services Plan premiums, the Canadian Pension Plan and increases in the costs of gasoline.

“In July 2012 the province’s carbon tax will also increase and now we add to this council’s water, sewer and garbage rate increases. Local businesses cannot survive much longer in such an economic climate. All of this on top of losing Babine Forest Products … our whole town is affected,” he said.

Brown said he had discussed the issue with Village of Burns Lake director of public works Rick Martin and said he understands the need for budget increases to deal with aging infrastructure, but Brown said he feels the burden falls heavier on local businesses.

“There are inequities among the various sizes of each business. I have pointed out these inequities to various councils, mayors and economic development officers over the 35 years that I have been in business in Burns Lake and nothing has been done to correct them,” Brown said.

“Why should I and other one person businesses pay the same rate for services in our municipality as larger businesses? Those businesses with less than three people shouldn’t be expected to pay the same rate as businesses with four to 10 staff, nor should this group pay the same rate as larger staffed businesses.”

Brown suggested the village should prepare a form for each business to fill out when they pay their annual business license fee stating the number of staff employed, the size of the building, the number of bathrooms and sinks used and the type and estimated volume of garbage generated. “Using this data, a formula could be generated to indicate the appropriate rate each business would have to pay.”

Brown pointed out an article in the Lakes District News issue of Jan. 18, 2012, which said the District of Vanderhoof charges business rates based on the size and type of business.

“I am asking for a fair and equal rate to be given amongst my fellow small business owners. Lager businesses need to pay more if they use more and any small business using more should also pay more. All of this can be done without the added expense of putting in meters.”

Brown said business owners also need to be given proper advanced notice about any increases in utilities. “Most of us don’t own our building, so notifying our landlords of any increases and not the owners of the businesses creates avoidable problems.”

Brown also said he thought council renting out the interpretive centre on Hwy. 16 to the Lakes Artisan Cooperative is giving them an unfair advantage over other local businesses.

“The Community Charter states that the village can not have involvement with private businesses and can not provide assistance or favour one business over another in a rental. Yet the previous council went ahead and rented out the building to a group of independent artists, each with their own business … these artists receive an unreasonably low rent which includes property taxes, municipal water, sewer and garbage collection rates as well as snow plowing and general building maintenance. They directly compete with every other business in town under much favoured conditions.”

Councillor John Illes said, “I think your points have been made pretty clear.”

Mayor Luke Strimbold said, “This is why it is important that people come to council. The impact is much greater when you come to council and tell us, as well as putting it in writing so that we can keep your comments and refer back to them.”

Mayor Strimbold said, “We have had conversations about [these] inequities around the council table fairly often. It applies to business licenses too … should one business pay the same as a business who sells only two items per year? What is right? I am hopeful that we can find solutions to address several of these concerns as we move forward.”