Tax hike still biting local businesses

Dear Editor

Re: Ashcroft Adopts Tax Hike (17 May 2011)

While I am not a business owner in Ashcroft, I do work for a local

business, and am aware of how the 22% tax increase will impact the

bottom line of every business in the village. I think that treasurer

Natalie Aalderink is being somewhat disingenuous when she notes that

while business owners aren’t eligible for the home owners grant, “many

Ashcroft business assessments were lower this year”. This is all very

well as far as it goes; but unless the assessments are substantially

lower than they were last year, businesses are still taking a hit,

facing a 22 per cent tax hike on their assessed value.

Rather than blame the council of the 1990s for the current state of

affairs (and really, two decades seems to be stretching the time- honoured

government fallback of “blame a past administration for this

mess” to the breaking point), perhaps it would be salutary for the

current council to look back at the 1990s through different lenses. In

the 1990s, Ashcroft had two large grocery stores; three hardware

stores; a full service Radio Shack outlet; a business that sold and

serviced bicycles; a pool/billiards hall; a business that sold and

serviced computers; a full-service print/copy shop; a large hobby/ crafts

store; a store that sold paintings, artwork, and did custom

framing; a full-service florist shop; a large, dedicated video/DVD

rental shop; a laundromat; an Internet café; a U-Brew outlet; and the

various shops that were in the Bailey Building before it burned down

in 2001 (which included, at that time, the Secret Garden restaurant, a

clothing store, a shoe store, and a small food outlet). I may well be

forgetting a handful of businesses (I moved here in 1997), and can’t

recall when the clothing stores owned by Fran Helland and Laurie

Webster closed their doors, although I recall both from my earlier

visits here (which began in 1971).

Look again at that list of businesses above. We now have one large

grocery store, and one hardware store, which has absorbed Radio Shack

(now called The Source). The Dollar Store occupies part of the space

one of the hardware stores took up in the Village Mall; the rest of

the mall (apart from a beauty salon) stands empty. Another business

now occupies the site of the hobby/crafts store; but all those other

business have moved out and not been replaced, or been burned out and

the site not redeveloped. These were all standalone businesses, each

of which presumably paid taxes to the Village of Ashcroft, and in the

intervening years very little, if anything, seems to have been done to

attract new businesses in their place.

Common sense would seem to indicate that the best way to generate

taxes without causing further suffering to local business is to have a

broader base from which to draw those taxes. Perhaps, instead of

trying (unfairly) to blame the council of two decades ago, and causing

the few businesses in town that have managed to hang on for dear life

to tighten their belts even more, the Mayor and council could try to

be more proactive in attracting businesses to the Village, before it

becomes a ghost town.

Barbara Roden