Tax hikes in the 2016 St. John’s budget are “anti-growth and anti-development,” says the St. John’s Board of Trade.
Board chairwoman Kim Keating told The Telegram that one of its members’ biggest concerns is the introduction of a vacancy tax.
“With this introduction, particularly in a softening economy and seeing vacancy rates increase, it will deter development, and certainly developers will not be interested in pursuing infrastructure unless they have 100 per cent occupancy guaranteed,” Keating said Thursday.
About 50 members of the board met Thursday to discuss their concerns with the budget, which will also see commercial taxes go up an average of 21.2 per cent.
Small business owners in particular, said Keating, are worried both about the increase in taxes as well as a planned replacement of downtown city infrastructure, due to begin next year, that is expected to shut down parts of Water Street in sections for at least a few years.
“A lot of folks were saying just to stay in business will be a challenge for the next few years given the recent tax increase,” said Keating, who added the purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to gather information from its members to be able to present to the city.
“We want to present to the city what we heard today so they can understand better the real impact that their decisions are having on the business community, whether it be layoffs, deferring expansions, deterring growth,” she said.
Following the meeting, the board released a statement calling the budget “anti-growth and anti-development,” and warned the city is becoming uncompetitive for business owners.
The relationship between the city and the business community isn’t good right now, said Keating.
“There’s a real feeling of mistrust in terms of how the city went about making these changes without any sort of consultation with the business community,” said Keating.