Wolfville Council is not alone as it considers its ever tightening financial strait jacket. And there is advice to be had. This is from a recent article in the Financial Post.
As recent economic events and resulting stimulus packages have squeezed the public purse, small businesses are in a unique position to comment on the performance of their local leaders because they are residents, business taxpayers and, ultimately, job creators for the communities.
Time and time again, our members tell us of their frustrations in dealing with the unwillingness of city council to work with them on solutions to make their communities business friendly.
Some of the key principles municipalities should note: …
Businesses already pay a lot more in property tax than residential taxpayers, so stop looking at increasing existing taxes or piling on new ones as a solution to revenue shortfalls.
Wolfville should drastically reduce our business taxes. This would make us more competitive and attract new business and commercial investment. [It is insane that Irving was paying as much as it was in tax every year on the “Clock Park” empty lot. ] Commercial tax is a small part of our base so the reduction would not have a huge impact on the overall budget but would make a big impact on business. Finance the reduction by cutting operating costs which are way too high for a town this size, not by increasing residential taxes.
Expenditure growth has run amok in recent years at the municipal level. A focus on spending restraint is long overdue. Correct staff overcompensation As half or more of all municipal budgets consists of payroll and benefits, there is a pressing need to align city staff compensation with comparable private sector jobs.
Wolfville is over staffed and some of the staff we have is over priced. This drain has to be addressed. A hiring freeze should be considered.
A wide range of city services can be put out for competitive bidding and everything can be packaged in a professional budget decision-making framework with an independent audit process.
Settle labour disputes fairly …
No more huge payouts to exiting staff. No more hush money for whistle-blowers. If employees need to be fired, document the faults over time and fire them. And we would add – no more needless and costly legal battles over access to information.
Establish standards for services such that, if services provided do not live up to the standards, there are consequences. For instance, if a business applies for a city permit and does not receive it within a reasonable time, there will be no charge to the business for the permit. There is currently little if any incentive for city workers to be responsive to taxpayers, and performance is poor and inconsistent as a result.
Consequences! They work.
Doesn’t the above make sense? And if not, why not? How about having the local Canadian Federation of Independent Business representative in to speak to Council? We would think that at least some of our business owners in town are members.
We hesitate to post this advice because we expect that since these suggestions come from us they will be dismissed, so please consider that this advice comes from the CFIB.