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Business Improvement Area budget approved for 2021

May 7, 2021   ·   0 Comments

The work of Aurora’s Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) will continue through the rest of the year following Council’s approval of their budget last week.

On a vote of 5 – 2, Council gave the green light to a $37,533 ask that will go towards several projects designed to make Aurora’s historic downtown core a destination, including beautification programs and the creation of a COVID-safe outdoor gathering space just north of the Clocktower/Post Office building.

The BIA is funded through a $40,000 tax levy that is funded solely from property taxes collected in the BIA’s catchment area, which is portions Yonge and Wellington Corridor closest to the intersection.

This year’s number reflects leftovers from previous years and cost-savings from projects put on the backburner in light of the global pandemic.

Opposing the budget request were Councillors Rachel Gilliland and John Gallo who said there wasn’t enough information before them to indicate that there was a true buy-in from impacted property owners, particularly as a recent meeting of the BIA membership failed to reach quorum.

“Because of the lack of quorum, it is tough for me to accept them as approved finances,” said Councillor Gilliland. “I want nothing more than to have this BIA and everybody to succeed in moving forward, I love the fact that they are trying to move this initiative forward, but at the same time there is a process. Within that period of time, it was concerning to learn that a lot of the tenants didn’t understand they had voting rights at that time.

“I don’t know what the rush is, quite frankly.”

The timing, noted Town Treasurer Rachel Wainwright-van Kessel was that the BIA tax levy needed to be approved in time for 2021 property taxes to go out.

“Here we are with time put against us, having to make this decision without having the proper information,” Councillor Gilliland continued, adding she would prefer to take a vote on the matter after the BIA’s meeting this month.

Similarly, Councillor Gallo said it was “kind of a leap of faith” to believe the majority of BIA members are “satisfied with everything that is going on.”

“I did reach out to two different people and both of them were not at the meetings; one was aware of the meeting and I don’t think had all the information for that meeting,” he said. “There’s definitely some work to do and I think in their budget they are putting some money towards trying to fix those problems. I really don’t know how many members are on board with what the BIA is proposing.

“My preference would have also been to wait until their next AGM and have a better understanding in terms of what the membership feels and, to be honest, it is up to them to communicate to us if they are not happy. I have to reach out because I knew it was on the agenda but I haven’t heard from anyone saying we have some serious issues with this. One could conclude they are happy. You could also conclude they just don’t know, they weren’t involved, apathy – we just don’t know and I don’t know which it is.”

Aurora CAO Doug Nadorozny added that although it was a “less than perfect process” he hasn’t heard any objections to the proposed levy, nor had Mayor Tom Mrakas who said, “I didn’t speak to just one or two, I spoke to the majority of the property owners and the majority of tenants and I have no issues. I have heard no complaints. I have received no emails. I have received no phone calls from any property owner or any tenant in that area, and trust me when I say this: I receive quite a few emails and phone calls. On this one? Zero.”

Town Solicitor Patricia De Sario noted that there has been no requirement for the BIA to vote on the budget since its inception two years ago.

“There are some questions about the rules and procedures they have in place and perhaps that is a role for staff and us to support the BIA,” said Councillor Michael Thompson. “Because they are essentially established through us, through a bylaw, and have guidance with the Municipal Act, I am sure it is important for them to have policies and procedures in place in how they govern their meetings and what is required of them, and if they don’t already have them there let’s help support them and get them in place.

“When it was first established… I think there are some guidelines and rules out there. If any of the current members have issues, they can certainly look to that as guidance to see whether or not things were done correctly. Let’s support them because at the end of the day a BIA is a good thing. It is meant to help our downtown merchants. The majority of them wanted the BIA, they were the ones who came to us and said, ‘Let’s formulate it,’ and they did so. We need it even more so now as we look to try and come out of COVID and re-establish small businesses in the Downtown Core. Any help we can provide our businesses would be great. I look forward to a normal year where they can show residents and the merchants what they can do to help them.”

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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