Business license fees in Ponoka will go up in 2011, itís just a question of how much.
Town council took the first steps recently to modernize its Business Licence Bylaw and amend a rate structure that hasnít changed in a generation.
Gerald Matichuk, director of engineering and development, told council the last time the bylaw was amended was in 1985. Business licence fees have been frozen since then.
While his recommendation to council is to in some cases double the fee, for a local business operating from commercial premises, the licence would increase to only $100 from $50. A permit to operate a home-based business would increase to $125 from $75. Out of town businesses would pay $250, up from $150.
It is estimated the increase in fees would generate $26,000 in new revenue for the Town of Ponoka.
Mayor Larry Henkelman was concerned at first that the recommendation sought to increase fees for out of town businesses by only one-third to $200 while local businesses would see their fee double to $100.
ìIf we are doubling it for our local businesses, why are we not doubling it for out of town businesses?î
The mayor also insisted the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce and the economic development board be invited to comment on the bylaw amendments.
Coun. Jack Surbey wondered if the out of town rate becomes too high it might ìscare some of these guys offî from doing business in Ponoka.
Coun. John Jacobs was more concerned about the impact on local businesses.
ìFor someone who may not be expecting this 100-per-cent increase, that could be quite substantial for some people,î he said. ìCertainly itís not something they would have budgeted for.î
While Matichuk wanted town council to give three readings to the bylaw that night so administration could update its software and start the billing process, CAO Brad Watson overruled him. He advised council to wait and offer an ìopportunity to businesspeople who are going to pay the business licence fee to have a look at it and comment before you pass the third and final reading.
ìI donít want the council to be seen as ramrodding it through,î Watson added.
The licence bylaw also deals with rates for a home catalogue business, farmersí market, public market and hawkers and peddlers.