Westerly News file photo

Westerly News file photo

Tofino council approves business licence fee increase

A significant spike in local business licence fees became official in Tofino last week

A significant spike in local business licence fees became official in Tofino last week.

The town’s municipal council unanimously approved a 40 per cent increase in business licence fees over the next two years during their Dec. 13 regular meeting, despite a last minute plea from the chamber of commerce to spread that increase out over a longer time period.

The district’s manager of protective services Brent Baker first pitched the increases to council on Nov. 1, noting most business licence fees had not risen since 2000. The back-to-back 20 per cent increases in 2022 and 2023 will be followed by 2 per cent increases each year to keep up with inflation. Those consecutive 20 per cent increases equate to a roughly $100 increase to most current business licence fees by 2023.

A licensed food service, for example, would see their fees rise from $250 in 2021 to $360 in 2023. Commercial retailers with over 300 square metres of space will see their current $400 fee jump to $576 in 2023.

Vacation rental fees saw an increase in 2018, so that sector’s fees will not rise as sharply with an 8 per cent increase in 2022 and 2 per cent annual increases after that.

In a letter reviewed by council immediately prior to their decision, chamber of commerce president Laura McDonald urged the district to reconsider the timeline, explaining that “many Tofino businesses are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“These increases will nearly double business license fees in two years. We would ask you to consider phasing these increases over a five-year period to give businesses a chance to deal with all the challenges they are currently facing. The past two years have been incredibly hard on our business community as they have continuously pivoted to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads. “Many continue to struggle with lack of staff and have had to limit operations as a result. Also, we would invite you to engage the business community through the Chamber at any time to discuss changes such as this ahead of implementation. We feel we have valuable input we can contribute to council’s discussions and are more than willing to provide whatever information we can to help inform your decision-making process.”

After reviewing McDonald’s letter, council approved the fee increases without discussion, though the district’s manager of corporate services Nikki Best clarified the new fees would not take effect until next month.

“If people were to pay their business licence fees before Jan. 1, 2022, they are still going to pay the former fee,” Best said. “Which is actually the deadline for payment for next year.”


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