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St. John’s business owners ‘distressed’ by city budget: CFIB

["St. John's City Hall. — file photo"]
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The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) says many small-business owners in St. Johns are “distressed” by the city’s “tax-and-spend” 2019 budget.

In a news release issued Tuesday, the CFIB’s director of provincial affairs said small-business owners were already pessimistic about the future before the budget was announced Monday evening.

“Many small-business owners in St. John’s were hoping the city would provide some relief to alleviate the cost they are being hit with on all sides,” said Vaughn Hammond. “These tax increases are very discouraging especially in light of the city continuing its free-spending ways.”

The commercial property mill rate is set to go up by 1.4 to 26.1, while assessed property values also increased for commercial owners.

The CFIB says that means the average business owner in St. John’s can expect to pay about $3,500 more than they did in 2018 – something the federation said a number of business owners will be hard-pressed to afford.

“They will need to sell more goods or provide more services. But in the current economy, this is very difficult to achieve,” reads the news release.

The federation said commercial owners receive fewer services than residential owners yet are burdened more by the budget.

As well, while most commercial property values increased between one to four per cent, the CFIB said some properties saw increases as high as 70 per cent.

The federation also takes issue with city spending in the 2019 budget — it’s going up by 2.4 per cent.

“In September, CFIB proposed initiatives the city could undertake to reduce spending while ensuring core municipal services could be provided in an affordable manner,” said. “Sadly, the city was not interested in reforming how it operates and business owners are bearing the brunt of that decision.”

Hammond acknowledged the city is continuing its work on finding efficiencies in service delivery, possibly reducing the red tape business owners often incur.

However, he said the tax and spending increases in the 2019 budget will overshadow those efficiencies.

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