SAULT STE. MARIE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce is pleased that its voice was heard during the 2014 city budget deliberations.
“The chamber, for the first time in recent memory, delivered a multi-faceted position paper on the budget," said Mark Barsanti, chamber president.
“There were several e-mails exchanged between myself, the mayor and some councillors last week and throughout the weekend. I believe our concerns were taken to heart and the budget reflects our concerns to an extent.”
Asked how the budget could be improved, Barsanti replied, “The Chamber would like to see a stronger emphasis on making the budget a tool to improve the level of private sector development and private sector job growth -- a more long term strategic use of the budget process, as opposed to focusing so heavily on the annual levy increase. We would like to see the City adopt a set of goals that keeps spending in line with the natural growth of the city and the rate of inflation.”
The chamber would like the city to begin the process of developing a strategy to significantly reduce our dependency on the provincial subsidy it receives of more than $17 million.
The chamber believes that this level of dependence on Queens Park leaves Sault Ste. Marie far too vulnerable to future changes in provincial policy.
According to Barsanti, one of the biggest challenges still not dealt with is the disparity between local business tax rates and the business tax rates in other cities.
He notes that it’s not a question of giving business a break, but rather creating a fiscal climate that will encourage outside investors to see our community as a more competitive place to do business.
When pressed about how that can happen, Barsanti replied, “Our city does a good job of managing its budget—the surpluses are evidence of that, but there isn’t any organization in the country with $180 million budget that is running at 100% efficiency. We need to do a deep dive. We need to start the process of looking at what we do as well as how we do things. Perhaps we need to provide incentives for meaningful savings. Further, we have to ask ourselves whether or not we would be willing to forego some levels of some services in exchange for a policy direction aimed at making our city more palatable for investors to choose our city over others they may be considering. We need more private investment here to grow our tax base and make the city more affordable for everyone -- I am confident that the mayor and council are on the same page with respect to that goal.”