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Gazette Times: Panel kills business fee

It’s back to the drawing board for for ‘Prosperity that Fits’ plan funding

By Matt Neznanski

Gazette-Times reporter

Faced with overwhelming opposition to a proposed fee for doing business in town, a committee charged with detailing the fee opted to scrap the plan.

Over the past month, business reception for being solely responsible for funding “Prosperity that Fits,” a plan designed to build targeted economic prosperity in Corvallis, had soured, culminating in a public meeting Thursday night where participants gave nearly two hours of testimony.

“Our position is that economic development should be valued the same way we value police and fire and should be paid for in the same way,” said Mysty Rusk, president of the Corvallis-Benton Chamber Coalition.

The Chamber formally withdrew its support Thursday after wavering in past weeks, especially over the committee’s decision to exclude charitable nonprofit groups from paying the fee.

Real estate agents, organizations that represent independent business and even some members of the committee crafting the fee backed away from the idea, leaving no foundation for support and little sense in moving forward, said Bill York, the Ward 1 city councilor, who heads the committee that was trying to design the fee.

“That makes me very uncomfortable with looking at this as a viable program,” he said. “It’s still going to leave a lot of questions unanswered. I’m still hearing strong support for Prosperity that Fits. The issue is how to pay for it.”

As proposed, all for-profit and noncharity businesses working in Corvallis might have been charged a base $50 fee, with an additional $12 per employee up to $1,000. Festivals and markets would have paid the $50 rate to cover all vendors.

Plans for a business-license fee originally came from the now-disbanded Downtown and Economic Vitality Plans Implementation Committee. The group was given the job of deciding how to raise money to pay for the programs recommended by the Prosperity that Fits plan.

Several business owners suggested that one step in developing prosperity might be to reduce some regulatory hurdles that hindered their ability to grow.

“I’m scratching my head wondering how I’ve stayed in business for 49 years with all the sign changes, building codes and zoning ordinances over the years,” said Walt Schmidt, owner of Schmidt’s Garden Center.

The city had figured on spending $170,000 to pay for business incubation and support services, promoting growth in specific industries and hiring a business-retention specialist to work on behalf of the city, all outlined in the Prosperity that Fits plan.

Ultimately, however, most business owners who spoke Thursday simply objected to being saddled with a fee for doing something they have been supporting in another way.

“We’ve already chosen how we want this to happen,” said Todd Washington, owner of CPR Works. “We’ve given our support to the Chamber, CIBA or the DCA.”

The committee will recommend the City Council dump the fee at its Monday meeting. Should the council accept that, York said, it and local businesses will have to go back to the drawing board to find funding for the Prosperity that Fits plan.

Matt Neznanski can be reached at 758-9518 or matt.neznanski@lee.net.


One Response to “Gazette Times: Panel kills business fee”

  1. Great post. Thanks for the info.

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