On Nov. 21, a city of Vancouver public hearing on the 2023-24 budget brought the city council face to face with seven business experts from our community, attending to advise against a proposal for increased fees on business. That councilors did not take their advice exposes a disconnect between the city council and the business community.
That night, several tax increases were on the agenda, including a 1 percent property tax levy and utility tax increases. But the business community focused on a proposed ordinance updating business license fees and surcharges, increasing the per-employee surcharge over time. Their testimony politely schooled the city council on the potential harm of the proposal.
As explained by speaker Nick Massie of construction company Rotschy, Inc. and the SW Washington Contractors Association, “it’s all about hours.” That is, the more hours a company’s employees work, and the more FTEs, the more they will pay the city of Vancouver for a business license under the proposed ordinance.
So, the proposal takes direct aim at employment and productivity. Yet it is precisely that private-sector productivity that pays the public’s bills, as patiently explained by the speakers.
Massie told the council the increase is “too much, too fast,” given the challenges companies are facing. He expressed concern for landscapers, who must also comply with the first steps of the city’s climate action plan by replacing gas-fueled equipment with electric, and now must pay more in license fees. This is “not inclusive,” he pointed out, referring to the city’s drive for inclusiveness.