On Monday, January 30, Sooke elected officials and staff got together to discuss how businesses are licensed in Sooke.
Staff brought forward the matter of business licensing, saying that there were a number of businesses in Sooke that haven’t registered or paid for a business licence.
There was some discussion among elected officials on various formats used by neighbouring municipalities. Langford, for instance, has a lifetime membership that is paid for once and then owned by the business for the lifetime of the business. There was also some discussion on enforcement. If Sooke has a bylaw but doesn’t enforce it, then perhaps the bylaw shouldn’t exist in the first place. The District also should not be contracting unlicensed businesses.
The CAO noted that funds derived from current business licence fees get channeled into some of the arts grants.
Kasper noted that when business licences were first established in Sooke, the funds collected were to cover bylaw enforcement and the contract with the Chamber. (The Chamber recently cancelled their contract with Sooke: Chamber of Commerce breaks from the District of Sooke.)
Elected officials also expressed an interest in maintaining the inter-municipality segment of the business licencing process.
Two members of the public spoke on business licences.
Diane Bernard owns both a business and a commercial building. In her opinion, business licences are quite important. They help the District know what’s out there, and who is doing what. They are also valuable for safety, records, standards. She was surprised to hear that money is going into general revenue. She noted that a business licence was required for her to work with Export Canada. In her case, she also needed a current business licence to export her products beyond Canadian Borders. Lastly, she felt that a business licence legitimizes businesses.
Britt Santowski also spoke in favour of the current licencing, saying it wasn’t cost prohibitive; she also suggested that the model used by Sidney be explored, as business there appear to actually receive something for their membership.
Councillor Parkinson noted that a current business licence was required to get a bank loan.
Kasper asked that staff consider cost ramifications. If the District eliminates or instills a one-fee-for-lifetime business licence, what are the losses in revenue? If those funds derived from business licences were going to into the general coffers, then losing those funds would have to result in either a tax increase or a reduction of services.
Pearson noted that local business were already paying a lion’s share.
Council voted on a motion to ask staff to do a cost-benefit analysis of different ways of managing business licences.
The Committee of the Whole meeting was on January 30, and it started at 6pm. Present were Acting Mayor Rick Kasper and Councillors Brenda Parkinson, Kevin Pearson, Kerrie Reay, and Bev Berger. Elected mayor Maja Tait joined at 6:45; Councillor Ebony Logins was absent.