The Town of Strathmore has reinstated license fees for Strathmore-based businesses in 2021 after waiving them last year, but a rebate could be enacted later in the year if needed.
Under the town’s business license bylaw, all businesses are required to hold a valid business license, costing a fee. But this fee was waived for Strathmore-based businesses by town council in February 2020 to attract new businesses to Strathmore and support existing ones.
Whether the town should again waive fees for local businesses in 2021 was discussed by town council during the Jan. 13 committee of the whole meeting. Mayor Pat Fule said he brought the issue to the meeting after being contacted by multiple residents concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on businesses.
The 2021 to 2023 operating budget council passed in November 2020 included about $100,000 in revenue from business fees in 2021. Therefore, if council was again to waive business license fees, the town would need to either raise property taxes or make a transfer from reserves to offset the revenue loss, said Mel Tiede, the town’s director of corporate services, during the meeting.
Another consideration in the decision is that the Strathmore Wheatland Chamber of Commerce (SWCC) is funded by licensing fees from SWCC-member businesses, noted Councillor Bob Sobol.
The town has already billed more than $60,000 in business license fees this year, said Tiede. Approximately 80 businesses have already paid for licenses.
Invoices for business fees are mailed out during the first two weeks of December, with fees due and payable by the last week in January of the current calendar year. Councillor Melanie Corbiell proposed extending the due date for business licensing fees.
However, Doug Lagore, the town’s interim chief administrative officer, recommended council stay a decision for now.
“If we find that the businesses have to remain shut down for a good portion of the year, we could look at a rebate program sometime during the year if there is a big impact,” he said. “But I think it’s premature at this time. Let’s see what the impact of COVID will be during the year, and deal with it at a later time.”
Councillor Lorraine Bauer suggested businesses challenged by the licensing fees could be exempted on an individual basis. Council decided to keep licensing fees in place for now, and the presentation was accepted as information.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times