Spring Garden Tax Reform Letter

SEPTEMBER 2015 - 

Dear Mr. MacNeil,

RE: HRM tax review

On behalf of the over 400 members of the Spring Garden Area Business Association (SGABA), I want to thank you for allowing us the opportunity to submit our comments on tax reform for Halifax.
As a business association, we hear daily from our members about the challenges of operating a business in the downtown core. High rents, a result of the significant tax burden passed on from property owners is making it difficult for businesses, in particular small businesses, to thrive. It discourages them from operating in urban centres and, in fact, contributes to the hollowing out of the city’s core as businesses relocate to suburban centres where land values are a fraction of what we have downtown.
As you know, SGABA, along with the BIDS from Downtown Dartmouth, Halifax, North End, Quinpool, Main Street and Sackville have been collaborating over the last several months with data collection and analysis of property taxes and assessments in our respective BIDS as well as the suburban commercial areas of Bayers Lake and Dartmouth Crossing. We would welcome the opportunity to share our findings with the City as well as learn more about the research and analysis city staff have done in preparation of their own report for Council.

During past meetings we have shared with city staff our desire to see a small business tax rate as well as a special downtown tax rate to help small businesses compete against big business and to
encourage them to locate and remain in our downtown. We recognize that a request for differentiated tax rates will require permission from the provincial government by way of change to the Halifax Charter. SGABA is ready and willing to offer our support should the city seek changes to the current tax structure. By working together on tax reform, we believe a solution can be found that will allow businesses to thrive. A vibrant urban business community will make downtown a place people want to live, work and play.

Another area of concern raised by our members is the disconnect between taxes paid and the level of services received. As suburban commercial centres continue to grow, so too does their demand for services. Increases in taxation used to pay for these, however, has not kept pace and the urban core, largely made up of small businesses, is forced to subsidize the many national and international big box stores. It is our understanding that data on cost of delivering services is not available. We encourage the city to a collect that data and report on its findings as part of the taxation review so that adjustments either to the level of services delivered, or the level of taxation paid, can be fairly shared between the urban and suburban commercial businesses.

Thank you again the opportunity to provide input into the review of commercial taxation. We look forward to collaborating with the city and to offering our support as Council moves to ease the tax burden on small business.


Kind regards,
Juanita Spencer
Executive Director
Spring Garden Area Business Association