Council Initiates Examination of Business License Fees in Morinville

by Colin Smith

Morinville Town Council is considering eliminating annual licence fees for Morinville businesses.

At its regular meeting Tuesday council supported a motion put forward by Councillor Stephen Dafoe directing Administration to come up with a plan to “maintain business licensing requirements while removing the annual fee for residents and non-residents who operate home-based or brick-and-mortar businesses in Morinville.

The motion further stated that the plan should “include potential fiscal impacts, alternative funding mechanisms, and any necessary changes to existing bylaws or ordinances.”

Morinville’s current Business Law Bylaw, passed in January of this year, requires all businesses operating in the town to hold a business licence. Licences must be renewed annually.

Dafoe argues that the requirement to pay for a business license each year puts town businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

“Why should businesses in Morinville pay a $100 fee each and every year when so many so many businesses are coming to town and doing business without paying the fee?” he said. “What I’m trying accomplish is to eradicate the unfair playing field.”

Doing away with the $100 business licence fee would cost the town about $40,000 in revenue annually. Dafoe seeks an examination of the impact of that loss and possible sources of funding to replace those funds.

He favours maintaining licences as a mechanism for regulating development permits and business operational scope, and suggested there might be an initial cost for taking out a business licence that might drop for subsequent renewals.

Deputy Mayor Scott Richardson agreed that it was time for council to have a look at the issue.

“Business has changed a lot in the last 10 years and is changing,” he said. “We’re seeing the Amazons and the bigger box stores delivering in town.
“I think the discussion would be healthy about how we treat our brick-and-mortar businesses in Morinville, and I think something good may come of it.”

“People are ordering from Amazon and, yes, it does hurt the local economy, but they are doing it in the privacy of their own home,” Dafoe said, in closing.

“What I’m more interested is the electrician and the painter coming to town and not pulling a licence. Part of this is that we get those things.”

The motion was passed by council.

Currently the town makes available eight different types of business licences, including those for residents and non-residents, year-long, temporary and special events, with various fees. The year-long business licence for a Morinville resident is $100.

People operating businesses without a valid licence are subject to fines beginning at $200 for a first offence and escalating to $500 for second and subsequent offences, plus $250 for each additional day the offence continues.

A court injunction to close businesses that continue to be non-compliant may be sought.

A clause in the Business Licence Bylaw calls for it to be reviewed every year in connection with budget deliberations.

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  1. When is this Council going to actually start to address long-term sustainability rather than continue to offer business savings? Businesses were given a huge tax cut around 2010 and MILLIONS of dollars since then has had to come from resident’s pockets. Here’s adding another $40,000 to the imbalance (about a third of a percentage point in taxes). If $100 makes you more competitive as a business, you’ve got bigger problems. Those fees were intended to help cover the cost of regulating and tracking business in the community…sounds like you and I are going to have to pay for those too! Right the ship by increasing the split mill rate! This is what is needed to help support long-term sustainability. Many on Council ran on the platform of reducing taxes for residents, when are you going to deliver?

    • Well said Barry! Businesses should carry this burden of $40,000 not residents.

  2. Looks like campaigns are starting early this year by the comments…

    I read nothing about passing the burden onto the residents, I read that they want alternatives presented and want to level the playing field to be fair to local business. That sounds like a council moving forward and looking at long term sustainability and potential business growth opportunities. Oh and yes businesses look at these things.

    I wonder if our last mayor did anything about the split mill rate (or enough to have made a difference in reducing debt)? I wonder if our last council looked at the unbalanced playing field that our local businesses face? I wonder if it’s fair to have a Staples truck come into Morinville to deliver to town office without a business license while we have a store that offers the same products next door.

    If you think this is over a $100 fee making a business more competitive you haven’t ever spoke to a business that puts money back into the community. I’ve never seen Amazon on a kid’s soccer jersey in town or seen Staples sponsor events at the Community Cultural Centre. If it’s only $100 from a business why does the town need it? If it’s only $100 to a business then it’s only $100 to the town.

    And when is the last time council did a review on this bylaw? I believe a good council moves on reviewing cost vs ROI on all items like this. What if our council discovers that while the revenue of business licensing brings in $40,000 it actually costs $120,000 to administer the program? Then are they still the evil council for providing a cost savings to the community.

    I believe this is about having an open discussion and understanding the way business is changing and what is good and fair. If you ask yourself truly if this is fair in the current form you will never be able to say yes. I debated this as a resident while Barry was on council and clearly there was nothing of merit brought out to the value and benefit of business licensing other than revenue yet they refused to discuss the costs of administering this program.

    I have the utmost respect for past and current councils. Even when I don’t agree with them I never would challenge them until I read the full article or until I heard all points of view. It seems like rushing to judgment and giving out a “GUILTY” verdict a little too early. Let’s sit back and await the information that will give them our duly elected officials the information to vote on in a way that they feel is best for the community. We elected them to do a job so let’s see which way it turns out before we start throwing stones from glass houses.

    Lifelong resident, business person, past Chamber of Commerce President, community advocate, event sponsor, and just a damn proud resident of Morinville.

    Sheldon Fingler (And no I’m not running for election!!!!)

    • Thanks for asking what last Council did to help resolve this. We showed strong leadership and instituted a bump in business taxes to start the move to balanced tax rates! This was a move supported by some current members, and then abandoned when it became unpopular with the business community. While we did hold off on more increases during the pandemic, we took the first steps to make this change. Additionally, the pandemic also presented some significant challenges that made debt reduction difficult, however we looked at a sponsorship program for the MLC that would have brought in 3/4 of a million give or take, that took a big hit because corporations don’t want to advertise in a facility that is shut down. We also secured a historic recreation agreement with the county that increased revenue as well.

      And about the 100 bucks, you are right, it doesn’t cover all of the costs, residents already subsidize the program, and that is quite enough.

      As for the guilty verdict, we have had two years of record tax increases for Morinville…never have I been on a Council that passed higher rates. I’d say proof is in the pudding.

      • Barry, I wonder if you did read the article or my response. It seems like you are mixing other thoughts unrelated to the issue at hand.

        What I heard you say about leadership is that you tried to do something but backed away because it was a difficult situation. Guess what sometimes you have to make tough calls. You took the first steps but it looks like you stumbled and fell.

        You also brought up sponsorship (although not relevant to the conversation) but I’m guessing you didn’t look at approaching the residents, you may have possibly considered approaching the businesses…. Remember it’s only $100 for a business license…hmmm, seems like businesses bring more than just $100 to our community.

        Yes, congratulations on the Recreation agreement, still not relevant at all to this conversations. Read the article.

        You then admit the program is subsidized which means it definitely needs a review and by you stating this I can only assume you now 100% agree with this motion so that council can review and see if they can find a suitable solution.

        And now the killer… TAX INCREASES. If the council before you leaves the budget in a tough spot you have to fix it. Although I am far from a fan of tax increases they aren’t implemented because of the actions of today but more so because of the lack of action from previous leaders. You can’t pawn this off on the council of today although they definitely own some of the responsibility.

        So you managed to miss the mark on the article and my response, I do applaud you for your willingness to challenge this regardless of our stances. I just know that business is more than big greedy rich fatcats. It’s people that donate to community events like I did for the Morinville Curling Club event tonight or the retro concert recently at the CCC. As a business owner I just want a fair playing field. It’s far more than $100 yet you seem to think it is. It’s bigger picture thinking and leading our community like others have done by thinking outside the box. Business isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago so our business license bylaw shouldn’t be the same either.

        Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is our business license system fair to all? Do businesses enter our community from outside the region without licenses? Is the program relevant? Is the program self sustaining? Does the program provide value?

        Now to state it again… I’M NOT RUNNING FOR ELECTION and I will not be in the next election. I’m just a concerned resident and business license holder who doesn’t think it’s fair the way it is today.

        Now I have to go back and focus on my 20 hour work day like all the other big rich business owners out there. But wait I’m working in a different municipality today and I don’t have a business license there…. See what I mean???

        I just wish I could support our curling club tonight because it sounds like they need it as their building lease is going up. If you get a chance to go tonight please spend the $15 and if you can’t go just buy a ticket so they get the support. Our community needs the Curling Club to last. Now I’m off track…. Sorry/Not Sorry. LOL.

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