Rod French feels he’s beginning to sound like a broken record.
The Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce chair is again voicing his concerns about tax increases in the central town.
Eight out of the last nine years there have been tax increases in Gander, states French. Two of the increases have been approved by the current council.
To cover it’s nearly $18-million budget for the upcoming year, the Town of Gander raised residential mill rates from 6.77 to 6.95 mills, with water and sewer fees being increased by $20 to $430.
Commercial mill rates have been increased from 6.46 mills to 6.80 mills. The same as last year, the commercial water tax will be based on the established mill rate.
French calls it a double tax, as 2018 was an assessment year and a number of residential and business properties experienced increases.
Coupled with a downturn in the economy, he said, additional taxes make it harder for residents and businesses to bring about stability.
And it has even resulted in closures.
“You do see a few vacancy signs, and it is a sign of the times, there are a number of businesses saying they’ve had a challenging year,” he said. “2018 has not been a good year for the business community in Gander and in the province.”
French said Newfoundland and Labrador is oil dependent, mega projects such as Muskrat Falls are winding down, and there aren’t as many people working in Alberta as there once was.
“A lot of that trickles down to the provincial and local economy,” he said. “If people don’t have money to spend they aren’t going to be buying as many cars and trucks, building homes or do much in renovations.”
Now, on top of that, he said, businesses have to find a way to compensate for the additional expense.
French isn’t opposed to taxation, and he sees it as an important component in maintaining and enhancing community services.
But he does take issue with how it’s used.
“You can only go back to the well so many times,” he said about the town constantly asking more of its taxpayers.
“It’s like there’s no effort to put some control on expenses… it has to be used in a wise and effective manner.”
French suggests the town look internally to save money, as 49.3 per cent of the town’s budget is dedicated to payroll and related benefits.
“We think that they need to look at their operations and become a bit more efficient,” he said.
“Because if we were doing that in the business community, just raising prices and not examining our operations and passing that along to the consumer, we wouldn’t be in business very long.”
The Town of Gander did not respond to The Central Voice’s request for comment.
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