Despite COVID, Downtown Kamloops businesses face 26% increase in association fees over 5 years | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops News

Despite COVID, Downtown Kamloops businesses face 26% increase in association fees over 5 years

The increase in fees would raise the business association's yearly budget by nearly $100,000.

The Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association is raising its fees along with its five-year renewal to operate within the downtown Kamloops boundaries.

Business levies will increase by 26% over the next five years, which they brought to Kamloops city council on Oct. 19.

Downtown Kamloops president Dino Bernardo said it was a "cost of living" increase. He added the board wanted to keep the hike low in the first year as downtown businesses continue to recover through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business improvement areas in B.C. must seek approval from the municipal government to operate every five years. At that point, boundary changes and fee increases can be adjusted.

Council then approves the budget annually, with the 2021 budget approved in June.

Levies are collected by the City and although the association promotes businesses within its boundaries, it's only the property owners that are subject to the levy.

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In 2022, property owners will have their fees increased by 1.5%, followed by 5% in 2023 and 6.5% each of the three subsequent years.

There are 410 commercial properties subject to the levy with over 1,000 different businesses, according to the association's executive director, Carl DeSantis.

Only the owners of the 410 properties within the business association's boundaries may petition against the fee increase in a petitioning structure set forth by the province in the Community Charter for municipal governments.

“To be perfectly blunt, I am entirely confident that this is going to go through. The feedback I've received already is that the value of the (Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association) is there,” DeSantis said.

Two Kamloops business owners are questioning the steep increase in levies and would like to oppose it, but they are finding the cards are stacked against them.

To successfully petition against the levy increase, at least half of downtown property owners must sign on, but those standing opposed must also represent at least 50% of the property value in that area.

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"There's part of me that says just get rid of (the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association)," Todd Mason, co-owner of The Vic, said. "You have to show me some value."

On behalf of the business association, levies are collected through municipal taxes and the amount is determined by the property's tax assessed value.

Fees can vary but remain low, with many of the levies amounting to 0.07% of a property's value, according to B.C. Assessment.

Mason has little say about petitioning against the levy increase because The Vic merely leases the space from the property owner, but Doug Andrews owns a property on Victoria Street and joins Mason in opposition.

“It's all about bang for my buck," Andrews said. "I hate to bring up COVID because we're all aware COVID has come and it will go, but we're all recovering from over-spending — from losing staff, losing revenue, facing big bills and shut downs. Then this comes along and (the business association) hasn't been doing anything."

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Andrews owns Karateristics and the building it's in. He also has three business tenants in the building with which he splits levies and taxes with as part of the lease agreement.

The business association, or Downtown Kamloops, is known for holding events downtown, advertising businesses and lobbying for business support. It has also had a role in downtown mural projects, lighted trees along Victoria Street, the roaming CAP Team and the new expanded patios spaces created to help restaurants struggling with public health orders.

The ongoing pandemic and subsequent health orders have made downtown events difficult and put many on hold since the spring of 2020.

With a projected budget of $291,720 coming from levies this year, that amount is expected to increase to $375,553 by 2026.

Downtown Kamloops is expected to survey businesses for any property owners that petition against the levy increase for the next month.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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