Rossland has high business licence fees compared to other municipalities in the Kootenay Boundary regional district.
Not every municipality in the Kootenay Boundary handles business licence fees in the same way. Some charge every business the same fee, and others, like Rossland, have a varied rate structure depending on the type, and sometimes the size or number of employees of the business. Some charge the same fee for a licence that expires on Dec. 31 no matter when the business applies for it, and others, like Rossland, pro-rate the fee by 50 per cent after July 31.
But taking the example of a small retail store that’s under 1999 sq. ft. and has under 20 employees (see table), Rossland has the highest business license fees in the area. Even if the square footage of the theoretical retail space was increased up to 2999 sq. ft., the City of Trail, which is the only Kootenay Boundary municipality to base the fee for a retail business on square footage, would charge $155 for the full year and $77.50 after July 31, as compared to $200 for the full year in Rossland and $100 after July 31.
During a regular council meeting in mid-December 2015, a conversation was initiated that has since led the City of Rossland to work on revising its Business Licence Bylaw, but so far the discussion has not included a comparison of fees to other regional municipalities.
On Feb. 9, 2016 city council directed staff to amend the Business Licence Bylaw to address “the addition of establishing fees for an event business licence, the further reduction of fee categories, and the provision of inter-municipal business licenses.” The latter point was addressed when council adopted the Inter-Community Business Licence Bylaw on Dec. 12, 2016, but amendments to the regular Business License Bylaw have not yet been brought to council.
Asked about this, Bryan Teasdale, CAO and CO for the City of Rossland, sent an email response: “Staff started on reviewing the local business licence bylaw in early 2016. However, due to a variety of reasons, we actually began to run out of time to complete this update in an orderly fashion for implementation in 2017. The current plan is to have a revised bylaw ready to go for 2018, after we spend more time with a comprehensive review of rate structures and classifications, complete work related to short-term rentals, review current enforcement/fine provisions, etc.”
Teasdale’s statement and meeting minutes from the Unlicensed Short Term Rental Advisory Committee suggest the committee’s recommendations to council, expected to be presented at the next regular council meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, will include recommended changes to the Business License Bylaw.
That committee is not the only group whose feedback is being sought before council proceeds with altering the bylaw. On Feb. 22, 2016 council tasked the Economic Development Task Force and the Trail Chamber of Commerce to engage with business owners during the development of the bylaw — though Doug Jones, president of the chamber board, says that so far the chamber has not been contacted.
“But we certainly look forward to working with everybody,” he added.
Tied in with all this was Deanne Steven, former executive director of Tourism Rossland, suggesting Tourism Rossland’s funding should be equivalent to business licence revenue, though that never came to pass. The idea seemed to be based on the arrangement with the former Rossland Chamber of Commerce, which received funding equivalent to 2013 business licence revenue in 2014. With that revenue now slotted under general revenue, at least one Rossland business owner has raised questions about what Rossland businesses are getting in exchange for their higher fees.
“Business licences are issued to ensure that businesses are operated as per current city regulations and controlled to protect the public (i.e. ensure a business operates in a safe way in a building/location that is compliant with its intended use). So with respect to this, purchasing a business licence ‘gets’ that business legitimacy,” said Teasdale in an email response. “Additionally, the city sends [our] current business licence registry to LCIC, Tourism Rossland and we also respond to numerous inquiries we receive from the Better Business Bureau.”
Meanwhile, some Rossland business owners are also paying to belong to the recently expanded Trail & District Chamber of Commerce, and questions have also been raised as to what extent the chamber is representing its new non-Trail members.
Specifically, the chamber promoted Silver City Days in Trail, but not Golden City Days in Rossland.
“I would say she is probably right on that this year, but going forward … this is an effort for us now to sort of branch out, make sure that we look after all of the businesses,” Jones said in response to the Silver and Golden City Days issue. “We need to get a little more support out of Rossland as well though.”
Jones says the Trail & District Chamber of Commerce hopes to not only get more Rossland members, but also hopes to have some Rossland business owners join the board.