Sooke council is asking municipal staff for direction on possible changes to its business licensing program.
Councillors Brenda Parkinson and Kerrie Reay brought a resolution before the committee of the whole last week, instructing staff for a cost-benefit analysis on business licences, which will examine costs, historical trends, inter-municipal licences and possible changes.
Most businesses in Sooke don’t buy a business licence. Businesses are required to buy a business licence annually.
The district has several options when it comes to business licences, said chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan, including not charging for licences, charging only once or inter-municipal permits.
Sullivan pointed out the revenue that the district receives every year “isn’t a significant amount.”
Business licences cost between $50 to $250.
“We need to look at what it costs to the District of Sooke,” Reay said. “We may decide not to go past the first initial business licence.”
The District of Sooke brought in its business licence bylaw in 2007 at the request of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce and because of a region-wide inter-municipal business licence. Inter-municipal business licences allow a business to buy one licence and be able to operate in every Greater Victoria municipality.
“The municipality seemed out of sync [with other municipalities],” said Coun. Rick Kasper, who, along with Parkinson, served on council at the time, “because we didn’t have a business licence program.”
Council hoped by bringing in a business bylaw that the district would be able to defray costs of an annual contract it had with the chamber and help with enforcement expenses.
Coun. Bev Berger said she would like to know what other municipalities do with business licences.
“What are the standards with other municipalities and what are they doing with business licences?” she asked.
The district’s legal council advised district staff the business licence bylaw needs updating, Sullivan said.
Sooke business owners Britt Santowski and Diane Bernard urged council to keep the business licence program in place.
“They’re quite important,” Bernard said, adding they are used for everything from statistical information to getting a business loan.
The fines for not have a business licence can be up to $10,000 per day.