With many local businesses on the brink of closing their doors in this difficult economy, the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce says it appreciates the less than one per cent tax increase in the city’s 2020 operating budget.
Chamber CEO Rick More says he still would have liked to have seen a zero per cent increase.
But he’s “encouraged by council’s willingness to reduce the tax burden on city residents and businesses.”
More said, “It’s been a longtime ask by our chamber that the city take a hard look at costs, focus on competitiveness, business friendliness and reducing the tax burden on our local job creators.”
He acknowledged council’s decisions to reduce this year’s capital contribution and the transfer to operating reserves are not sustainable or long-term solutions to tax competitiveness, “but is the right call for this time.”
“As we enter yet another year of this economic downturn, the number of business closures, combined with those on the verge of shutting their doors and the exodus of business from our downtown core, the last thing we needed was another substantial tax increase,” explained More.
He added the chamber will continue to encourage the city to focus on more efficient program and service delivery that results in long-term cost savings, but maintains core services.
Before budget deliberations began, the chamber provided a written submission to council asking it to align municipal priorities with the province’s stated direction of job creation and growing the economy.
More feels these focus areas are “especially pertinent” given government messaging that municipal funding will be awarded based on this alignment.
While he’s encouraged council directed city manager Allan Seabrooke to find an additional $400,000 in savings, he would have liked this amount increased, so that a zero tax increase could have been attained.
More noted $400,000 only equates to approximately one-tenth of a per cent of total operational spending.
“We’re confident that in a nearly $400-million budget there is significant room to reduce spending” by even more, said More.
However, he’s encouraged that city councillors and administrators worked hard to achieve what should be a .97 per cent increase for 2020.
“By setting conditions that allow local business to thrive, our entire community will benefit from increased job opportunities and a strong local economy.”
More added the chamber is continuing to work with city officials to simplify the building permit process. More is pleased the city began to loosen “strict” zoning requirements by allowing various types of businesses in Riverside Light Industrial Park.