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Wolfville council cutting funding to business development corporation

WOLFVILLE - After reading a comprehensive 15-page staff report regarding economic development in Wolfville, town council has decided to change its funding mechanism for the Wolfville Business Development Corporation (WBDC).  

Council is terminating the current funding arrangement provided to the WBDC. Effective April 1, 2016, the town will cease to allocate funding to the WBDC from the special commercial area rate and will provide a maximum of $40,000 in the upcoming 2015-2016 fiscal year.

“We certainly didn’t undertake this decision lightly, but believe we are taking the necessary steps to streamline and improve the delivery of economic development activities for the betterment of our local businesses and commercial taxpayers,” Mayor Jeff Cantwell said.

Over the last 30 years, the town and business community have co-operated on economic development and downtown upgrades. Reevaluating the delivery of services and restructuring are not uncommon, the report noted.

The report looked at the WBDC’s administration costs, the operation of the successful Wolfville Magic Winery Bus and the organization’s ability to develop and manage projects and initiatives.

“The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus has been incredibly successful in drawing visitors to our region and highlighting our food and wine industry, and maintaining and growing this initiative is a big priority for the town of Wolfville,” Cantwell added. Council is emphasizing greater control, accountability and transparency in terms of the provision of economic development services within the town, a news release indicated.

Wolfville chief administrative officer Erin Beaudin said council is “optimistic that the future relationship between the WBDC and the town will keep the interests of our business community in focus.

“We look forward to formulating a new relationship in regards to our service delivery models,” she added.

WBDC vice-president Miranda Collins said that while the announcement was a surprise, “we’ll be working together collaboratively for the betterment of the community.”

Collins said the WBDC is a separate entity from the town organization and will not just disappear. Formed in 1980, David Hovell has been the executive director of the organization since June 2011.

“This is a bit of a change, but we’ll work it out,” Collins said.

According to a WBDC announcement last week, a working group comprised of members of the board has been formed and will meet over the next few weeks to review the WBDC’s contractual obligations and evaluate options for the WBDC on a go forward basis, beginning April 1, 2015. 

Savings for businesses: council

Wolfville council says the streamlined approach to economic development will result in a reduced tax burden to the commercial sector and will allow for a refocus of the town’s strategy to be more in line with initiatives outlined in council’s strategic plan and the downtown development plan, both of which were formulated in 2014.

The town will continue to host and support local festivals and events and will be seeking opportunities to enhance the existing Community Partnerships Program Policy.

A portion of the special commercial tax levy collected in 2015-2016 will go towards funding the WBDC’s operations for the upcoming year, with the remainder of funds going towards marketing, sponsorship, and associated economic development initiatives lead by the town.

Effective April 1, 2016, the special commercial tax levy will cease to support the WBDC. Instead, it is anticipated that a significantly reduced special commercial tax levy will be utilized fully by the town for the implementation of economic development activities.

Finance director Mike MacLean said the expected savings for local businesses in the 2015-2016 fiscal year will be upwards to 10 cents on the commercial area levy. Further reductions are expected in 2016-2017.

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