District takes in almost $12,000 for business fees

As The Mayor Sees It with District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys

The District of Barriere collects almost $12,000 in Business License fees. That shows up as a line item in the budget.

I was asked where in the budget does it show what this money is used for? Here in Barriere the revenue from business licenses goes into general revenue and can be used for any District expenses like the wages of the person collecting the fees.

Does this point to the District having created some sort of self feeding revenue source that provides no benefit to those that are paying?

One would hope not, as our business community already pays a considerable portion of the taxes collected, they hardly need another cost of doing business.

Do business license fees give a direct benefit to the business community, or is it another tax grab under a different heading?

Given that there is no defined use of the funds this is impossible to answer.

A related question is why does the District collect the money?

There is a common misconception that business licenses drive health and fire inspections. If this were true, does it mean communities without a business license collection system have no fire and health inspections?

I seriously doubt that is the case.

In some communities the business license and membership in the local Chamber of Commerce are combined. The local Chamber of Commerce and the town then offer such things as annual advertising on the town website, and the Chamber newsletter is included in the town’s utility billings.

I called a few of the communities that do this and they say that it not only reduces cost to the town, since it is the Chamber that does the administration, but it has helped to bolster the sense of inclusion throughout the businesses in their area. The businesses can see that their money is being used to advertise their services.

Also, the fees collected provides the funding for the Chamber to act as their advocate when local government decisions are being made that will have an effect on how they operate.

In these cases it is very easy for businesses to see the value for the money spent.

I personally am not against the theory of having business licenses. I am against any order of government collecting a specific fee that does not provide a direct and well defined benefit back to those that are paying the fee.

All of us that live in small rural towns know that the needs of our communities are radically different than cities.

We recognize that in some cases the way to a solution is based on a custom tailored solution not something found in a design manual. Creating our own local government was considered to be the best way to control our own destiny and preserve the community and lifestyle that residents wanted.

More than a few residents ask what the District now gives them that they didn’t have before. In addition to that, what does having our own local government cost?

As stated in the District financial report the salary of Barriere’s senior administrator is just over $90,000. The District of Barriere staff salaries and wages were just over $500,000 at the end of 2013.

Even though Barriere still has one of the lowest property tax rates in the province, it may seem to some we are on the road to asking for more and more funding to hire staff and provide services without checking that we are on the right track to serve the needs of our community.

The administration of a community is not an easy or inexpensive task. The work must get done, but hiring more staff or paying high wages needs to be carefully considered as it may not accomplish what is needed.

It is the role of council to properly review staff recommendations on spending and to put in place checks and balances to ensure that the public’s wishes are served and the best value is gained.

The 2014 911 Golf Tournament was great fun. The total raised was possibly even greater than last year which means that local groups will benefit even more. Many thanks to Cpl. Underhill and his team of volunteers for putting the event on.