Members of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce proposed two changes in their delegation to the city of Port Alberni on Monday.
Chamber executive director Bill Collette asked for a slight increase in revenue from the city.
“We’re asking for one per cent extra this year,” said Collette. “We’ve never asked for that before. But everybody knows that things increase, so we’re asking for a little bit of a boost there.”
There was a slight increase in visitors to the Visitor Centre in 2016; 54,000 were counted, comparable to 49,000 in 2015.
“We had 1.2 visitor connections every minute in the month of July,” he said. “So we’re busy in the summer months. It’s just nonstop.”
The Chamber’s total revenue was just under $159,000 for 2016, where its operating costs were a little higher in student wages than they had budgeted for. “Again with 1.2 visitors every minute, I can see why,” Collette said.
The Chamber gets revenue from grants, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, Tourism Tofino and other miscellaneous sources, but the majority of its revenue comes from the fee for service agreement it has with the city.
“We run the Visitors Centre here so all we’re doing is taking a look at the fact that we’ve got $84,000 a year for the past several years without any sort of increase, so we’re just looking at the fact that our costs are going up.”
Councillor Sharie Minions said she was happy to see the Chamber asking for the increase.
“I think that whenever we give zero increases it always comes back down the road with us needing to catch people up,” she said. “Obviously your fees are going to increase and your costs are going to increase. We’re not doing ourselves any favours by keeping you at zero.
“I think that it’s a very small amount and probably a reasonable way for us to keep more on track with level taxation.”
Council asked staff to look at the implications of a one per cent raise to the Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber president Jan Lavertu also stepped forward to bring up the subject of business licenses. He brought up a number of projects the city has taken on, like the North Waterfront study and the Johnston Road Charrette, and pointed out that funding these projects is difficult.
“We could spend a lot of time and energy figuring out all these great ideas, but we need the source of revenue to do that,” he said. “And it’s hard for council to sometimes put money aside to do some of these projects.”
Lavertu proposed that the city put aside the business license fee into a separate account to be leveraged and collected for a few years, then invested in a major project.
“The beauty of this is we’re not asking businesses for tax,” he said. “The City of Port Alberni currently collects this tax, has been collecting this tax for years. Unfortunately, those funds go into general revenue. They do not go into anything specific.
“So what we’re asking for is that those funds be targeted for business improvement. Because in our view, it’s a business tax. Now we’re asking for that license to be earmarked for projects that would help the business community.”
Councillor Minions said this is something she has discussed on the Civic Affairs Committee, and has brought to council before.
“I think personally that it is a great concept for us to look at and talk more about as a council,” she said. “It’s money coming from business, it would be nice to see it invested specifically in business areas.”
Economic development manager Pat Deakin said that in January of 2017, 283 business licenses were renewed and 11 new businesses were taken out. In addition, the department had 30 inquires from individuals wanting to start a business. The average cost for a business license, he said, is around $200.