Several concerns were brought to the attention of Councillor Gower who attended the recent meeting of the Executive of the Stittsville Business Association (SBA): parking tickets during snow removal, business and residential taxes and the handling of operating costs for OC Transpo.
The meeting also provided the opportunity to introduce and welcome Olivia Bolt to the Executive and community. Olivia is a student at Sacred Heart High School and will be working with SBA on their social media pages for the next year. Allan Ryan, President of SBA, said, “we are excited to have Olivia work with the SBA, giving her the opportunity to learn of our work and her community and provide financial assistance to her future education”. The SBA plans on introducing an annual bursary program for students to work with the Executive. In lieu the student will receive a bursary for their future education.
Councillor Gower also invited City staff members to participate at the meeting – Mike Bureau and Brian Simpson, both are Economic Development Officers at the Planning, Infrastructure & Economic Development Department. Mike and Brian walked the SBA Executive through City initiatives in place to assist small businesses. Highlighted were:
- The Federal program – Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for businesses to apply for funding by March 9, 2021;
- The Economic Update expected on April 6 at 9:30 am and can be viewed on YouTube; The Mayor’s Economic Partners Task Force will be holding an Economic Recovery Town Hall on May 29; and,
- The SBA now being a member of the Ottawa Board of Trade which offers many benefits to small businesses.
During this past year, closures, restrictions, and unexpected expenses have made for a challenging time for the small business owner. For that reason, in 2020 the City introduced the Property Tax Deferral Program for both businesses and residents. The program is not being re-introduced for 2021.
The President of the SBA, Allan Ryan asked, “If deferral of taxes for small businesses, is not taking place – why not?” Councillor Gower said, “talks are ongoing with the Finance Department” and Brian Simpson stated he, “not overly optimistic, but the tax policy report is coming out during the first week of April.” The SBA says the tax deferral is not an avoidance to pay, but allows more time to do so. Wesley Smith, of Warmstone Dentistry, underlined the fact that, “at this stage, tax deferral can pay an employee or supplier – buy time for better days.” Cody Campanale shared his experience as a landlord, “I am hearing that retail are moving to online, planning long-term changes to their business operations with great costs incurred, restaurants re-contemplating size of dining area…is there any conversation about programs for these changes at City Hall?” Brian Simpson responded, “pre-COVID, businesses were not a presence online, but since COVID an increase of 100% for online business has taken place. I have not seen a change in the bricks and mortar businesses.”
Councillor Gower was to look into and provide further information on programs – the SBA are still awaiting a response.
In December 2020, the Province introduced a means for municipalities to to create and design an optional Small Business Tax Subclass as part of a municipality’s commercial taxation structure.
In response to the December announcement, Mayor Watson has asked City staff to “conduct an analysis and report back at the April meeting of FEDCO in the context of your annual Tax Policy Report.” The Mayor asked the staff:
- How the City would define that small business tax subclass;
- What level of reductions in property taxes could eligible small businesses benefit from under this tax subclass; and
- How could these property tax reductions for small businesses be funded without shifting the burden to the residential class.
In the interim, small businesses have received and are expected to pay their tax bills. This may very well put our local business community in jeopardy – with the difficult decision to close their doors, especially in light of a possible third wave coming from the pandemic.
Parking Tickets during snow removal:
Ryan raised the issue of the spate of parking tickets issued during snow removal in Stittsville with Councillor Gower. “There is the impression that during days of snow removal, it seems that residents are being unfairly ticketed as they remove the snow from their laneways and this will financially impact families,” Ryan stated. He went on to say that, “people are feeling targeted as they park their cars on the street for a short time – is Bylaw GPS enabled to follow the snowplows?” Councillor Gower indicated that he, “had only received 5-10 emails from residents and he would like to see more discretion from Bylaw.” Ryan responded that, “perhaps direction from Glen’s office to Bylaw would be in order.” The Councillor is to continue to follow-up on the issue. On February 17, there were 2,824 parking tickets issued across the region, bringing in approximately $300,000 for the City. To date, during only six snow storms this winter, 22,000 parking tickets have been issued.
Operating Expenses – OC Transpo:
Ryan brought up the issue of the costs of infrastructure and capital expenditures with OC Transpo in light of the low ridership figures. Ryan used the analogy of WestJet closely watching overtime for pilots and staff and their added decision that it is not wise to purchase new planes during these difficult times (the image of which would not be favourable to customers). With ridership on buses and the LRT well below average usage, should the City not look at pulling in the reins of the costs associated with the day-to-day operations of OC Transpo to counterbalance taxes for residents and businesses. Not a lot of response received on this thorny issue.