Vanderhoof residents will not be seeing a two percent tax increase this year anymore due to the economic impacts of the virus pandemic.
“I think we felt really good about the decision initially to raise taxes with the cost of living, but as time went on, we realized that this is a really tough time that we are seeing our town go through in the last month,” Gerry Thiessen, mayor of Vanderhoof said.
So for 2020, the same taxation from 2019 will be in place.
The mayor said council had discussed long term plans for making their reserves healthy, primarily the police reserve which is currently at approximately $1.2 million.
The reason for having a police reserve is that if Vanderhoof’s population crosses five thousand residents, the town will have to pay 85 percent of policing costs.
To not increase taxes in 2020, council decided that they would not add $150,000 to the police reserves this year, the mayor added.
Meanwhile, the Omineca Express also spoke to Thiessen about how businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 and what council’s plan is in terms of infrastructure, and their vision for Vanderhoof.
Last year, the provincial government gave Vanderhoof a $5.8 million grant aimed to be used towards infrastructure improvements.
Thiessen said, “Our hope is that during the coming year we will be able to use a substantial amount of those reserves, so people will be seeing those infrastructure upgrades.”
One major priority is improving Burrard Street and Main Street as they are “falling apart,” the mayor said.
Other than that, projects such as Highway 16 re-development, developing parks and playgrounds, environmental stewardship, diversifying the workplace to encourage more investors is what the mayor envisions for Vanderhoof.
In terms of how COVID-19 has affected businesses, Thiessen said its been “dramatic”.
He said it is “concerning” that local personal care businesses have had to shut down and that sawmills such as Canfor – Plateau and Nechako Lumber have had to take downtime due to the pandemic.
“We have been talking in council to develop a strong plan to rejuvenate businesses in Vanderhoof,” Thiessen said.
In terms of specifics, the municipal government wants to work with Northern Development Initiative Trust to “find what we can do to sustain Vanderhoof,” the mayor said.
He said council is thinking of ways to promote businesses. “We have shared a number of things with Attraction and Retention groups, we developed a tax incentive bylaw, we will have to be more aggressive as a community.”
Mayor and council are also starting to build a relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and Thiessen said he wants to work with them “closely” in finding solutions to revitalize the business community once the pandemic has passed.