Hard economic times, exacerbated by the pandemic, have necessitated some belt-tightening for Red Deer’s Downtown Business Association.
Red Deer city council heard on Monday that the 2021 Business Improvement Area (BIA) levy is $135,000 less than in 2020. A large part of this is due to the DBA no longer receiving the $95,000 provincial levy that’s historically been paid for the provincial buildings located in the downtown.
As well, the DBA is expecting about $40,000 less in 2020 business levy payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive-director Amanda Gould told council that some businesses have been unable to make the payment.
Instead of adding $40,000 on to the 2021 budget from reserves to cover 2020 expenses, the DBA has laid off one staff member and has reduced work hours by about 25 per cent for the remaining three employees starting Jan. 1.
The DBA also retired some programs that were deemed to be less useful, according to a membership vote on in a recent DBA survey, said Gould.
She added other successful programs will be retained, including Ross Street Patio programming, the downtown farmer’s market, Red Deer Lights the Night, holiday promotions, crime prevention and adopt-a-planter programs.
Because local businesses have endured unprecedented challenges and made many sacrifices during this pandemic year, the DBA is not planning to increase the business levy in 2021, added Gould. It will remain at the 2020 rate.
Coun. Ken Johnston credited the DBA for “keeping its perspective in an extraordinary year.”
Coun. Lawrence Lee recognized the struggle with fiscal decisions, but cautioned that the DBA’s ability to attract new membership rests with having effective programs to help draw more people to the downtown.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said she shops downtown for its unique shops, and hopes others will too.