BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Consider social costs too

When asked about Vernon’s proposed business license bylaw, many residents will respond, “I don’t have a business, it doesn’t impact me.”

When asked to provide input on Vernon’s proposed business license bylaw, many residents will respond, “I don’t have a business, it doesn’t impact me.”

But they would be wrong.

As you delve through details, you will find that one of the largest license fee increases would be for businesses that provide rooms for rent.

“A three or four-unit complex that is currently paying $40 would pay $115 with the proposed bylaw,” states a city press release.

In another case, daycares are currently paying $50 to $60 a year for a business license but that may climb to $90.

Now it should be pointed out that it’s not businesses that pay higher fees. If their costs go up, businesses pass them directly on to the customers.

A friend spends about $500 a month for child care/pre-school three days a week. A $90 license for her service provider will probably only translate into a few additional cents on to her overall bill, but it’s just more money coming out of the family’s already tight financial resources.

In her case, both parents are working, but what about for those single-income earners raising children? Every cent counts.

It should be noted that while the city is looking at hiking its fees for businesses, Vernon officials have been demanding the provincial government make child care more affordable.

“The economic and business return is so powerful,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky in October 2012 of the benefits of ensuring children develop at an early stage.

“We can’t afford not to do it.”

At that time, the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. told council child care costs are a significant stumbling block for many families, and the government should take action.

“There’s a lot of solid science and data behind it,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

“We will wind up with a more educated, well-rounded workforce with stronger social networks.”

Another social issue of concern for Vernon politicians has been the high price of housing.

Being unable to find a place to afford has led to some people couch-surfing, living on the street or leaving town. Some businesses have faced difficulties luring new employees to Vernon because renting or buying a house is out of reach.

“It’s still a challenge for people with limited resources to find suitable accommodations,” said Cunningham in June 2013.

But, through the proposed bylaw, anyone with three rooms for rent, will see their business license go from $40 to $115. That means rent will climb.

Now the city explains that business license fees will drop for many businesses such as graphic design, lawyers, photographers and computer care, and while that is great, child care and housing are as essential as milk and bread.

As part of defending its plan, the city insists business licenses are not a tax but a cost recovery for services provided by the city.

“These services can include, but are not limited to, review by building, planning, fire and bylaw compliance,” states the city release.

Obviously, no one wants the city to go broke providing services as everyone is a taxpayer, whether they rent a single room or own a home.

But it appears the anticipated boost faced by child care operators and landlords goes directly against the city’s previous stance on some critical social issues.