BIA lowers tax levy for downtown merchants, welcomes new board member

By Mike Baker

History was likely made at the Haliburton BIA’s 2021 annual general meeting on Thursday evening [Feb. 11] as the organization announced it would be reducing its annual tax levy for downtown merchants.

Luke Schell, board chair of the local BIA, admitted it had been a “strange year” for most downtown businesses, and that lower-than-expected expenses over the course of 2020 would allow the organization to give a break to their around 120 members this year.

“What’s happened is we didn’t spend as much of our levy in the budget as we needed to last year, so for the first time in the [many years] of the BIA, our levy is going to be reduced,” Schell said.

As well as paying property taxes to both the local and regional municipal councils, downtown businesses with a valid membership to their BIA also pay a levy to their downtown association. That money helps to pay for various events, programs and initiatives over the course of a year. For example, here in Haliburton, the local BIA organizes events such as the Frost Festival, Midnight Madness, Colourfest and the Santa Claus Parade. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of those events were cancelled last year.

Nelly Ashworth, BIA treasurer, noted there was a surplus of $12,825 left over from the 2020 budget.

She was hopeful that the BIA would have an opportunity to host some of its more popular events later in 2021.

Mayor address
Dysart et al mayor Andrea Roberts said she was “immensely proud” of the way the local business community had adapted during the ever-changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 was a really hard and strange year,” Roberts noted. “Some of you were busier than you ever have been, while others have been hurting immensely.”

She noted that one of the “great successes” of 2020 was the extension of summer patios for downtown bars and restaurants. Roberts said she hoped to see those patios return again in 2021.

New board member
At the conclusion of the meeting, Schell noted that long-time board member Sharon Rowden, of Touch of Class Spa, would be vacating her seat following years of service. Mike McKeon, from Up River Trading Co. was the sole nominee to come forward to replace her.

That means the 2021 BIA board consists of Schell [The Photo Shop], Ashworth [BMO], McKeon, Clay Glecoff [Glecoff’s Family Store], Brandon Nimigon [Century21], Brad Park [Foodland], Renzo Rosati [MooseFM], Andrea Wood-Roberts [Dysart et al council] and David Zilstra [Haliburton County Echo].

Schell paid homage to the outgoing Rowden in his closing remarks, while noting the impressive longevity of the local BIA’s board.

“Sharon has been an incredible member – she’s sad that she’s had to step down, and so am I. One of the things she’s always done is the fall decorations. We’re really going to miss her,” Schell said. “That aside, I believe we have the longest running consistent executive committee in a long, long time in Haliburton. This is a great group that represents the BIA for all the right reasons. They are doing this because they are interested in the benefit of downtown Haliburton.”

He concluded, “It has been another great year for the BIA. As a board, we all enjoy serving this community in this fashion. Here’s hoping for a positive year in 2021, and that hindsight really is 2020.”