The City of Corner Brook's 2022 budget maintains a tax break for tourism operators and levies a slight increase for larger businesses.
After property values fell by more than four per cent last year, the city is increasing commercial taxes in six categories: grocery stores, department stores, banks, oil companies, large retail stores and professional operations.
Those increases, which range from five to 10 per cent, are "designed to offset the decreased assessment value of these businesses," says Ryan Butt, the city's communications officer.
Coun. Charles Pender, chairperson of the city's finance committee, said even with those increases, the city still comes up about $90,000 short in tax revenue compared with last year.
In tabling the $35-million budget, Pender said, the city aimed to ensure residents get the services they need "without going overboard."
"It's a difficult time for everyone and has been for the last two years," he said. "We're just trying to maintain what we have without charging anybody any more than we need to."
Easing the pandemic burden was also the city's justification for maintaining a 10 per cent tax break for 100 businesses in the tourism sector.
"Tourism is a strategic priority for the city, and that's why we're continuing the discounted rate," Butt said. "Hopefully, it provided them with a little extra help at a difficult time."
A return on that investment is expected in 2022, with tourism predicted to make a comeback: 22 cruise ships are scheduled to visit next year, states the budget document, and the twice-postponed Jigs and Wheels festival is poised to make its long-awaited debut.
"With COVID‐19 having less of an impact on travel and tourism, we once again expect visitors from far and wide to visit our region," reads the budget.
Tourism isn't the only sector to benefit from breaks. The budget also froze mill rates for residences and all other business categories.
Next year will also see the start of a number of capital works projects which have been postponed due to the pandemic, Pender said. Among them is a new aquatic centre, for which the city has earmarked $5 million or the nearly $25 million cost.
Pender said the city's relatively low $7.5-million debt, combined with low servicing rates, means now's the time to invest.
"We can borrow up to 30 per cent, which we've never done that in the past. And right now, we're very low, so we do have room," he said.
The only increase residents will see in 2022 is a $25 water and sewer unit charge to offset increased operating costs for the city's water treatment plant.
Costs brought about by the pandemic, such as additional security to police the NLVaxPass, combined with a loss of revenue due to fewer events, meant access fees for the city's Civic Centre will increase from $1.20 to $3.50 in the fall of 2022.
But Pender said the city plans to recoup those costs in the future.
"So we're hoping that, if and when COVID settles, we'll increase the the revenue side," he said.