By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
After a tumultuous 2020, the Oshawa Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) is set to approve its budget for 2021.
With the final budget meeting set for Oct. 1, BIA Board Chair Ivano Labricciosa says the BIA looks to be more transparent and to better listen to its member’s wants and needs.
“It’s a bit of a different process this year,” he says. “We’ve learned from our experiences and the feedback we’ve been given… especially with the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.”
He says the membership wanted more transparency, input, and feedback.
After receiving input from its members, the BIA budget has passed the recent board meeting, and now needs one more meeting for final approval.
He says after receiving the feedback, it went back to committee, and the budget was adjusted so the tax levy impact wouldn’t increase.
“We’ve looked for other means to increase our resources to still deliver some value to the membership, and still live within our means,” he says.
The total of the 2021 budget is approximately $375,800, which is less than the 2020 original budget which was $649,000, but more than the 2020 working budget at $324,000.
Labricciosa says at the recent board meeting there were members present and they had a “good dialogue.”
“Some of the members that were there provided feedback… which was helpful to hear,” he says.
The members gave feedback on the BIA’s mandate, and whether the organization is too far reaching, as well as taxation across the city.
He says the top three priorities in the BIA’s budget include the unsheltered population, safety and security downtown, and parking.
“Parking used to be a bigger priority – it still is top three – but it’s still a concern,” he says. “But certainly safety and security is the number one issue right now that we’re facing.”
He says one area that gets difficult for the BIA is beautification of downtown.
“People want more beautification downtown. People want a more welcoming downtown. People would like events and those kinds of things,” he says. “But we struggle with trying to be everything to everyone’s needs, and then having to pay for that.”
However, the biggest issue the BIA is facing in the downtown is one that many others are facing as well: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started this process, I’d say maybe a good three, four weeks ago. So if you wind the clock back to then, we were thinking there will be a second wave,” he says.
He believes the community will get through the second wave of COVID-19 better than the first.
“Not unscathed – but a lot better,” he says.
Labricciosa and the BIA initially believed the pandemic would leak into 2021, but now think it will mostly be confined to 2020.
While he doesn’t expect a complete shutdown again, he says the pandemic will affect social gatherings, which will affect businesses.
“Our assumption was that we might be limited to 50 to 100 people in a gathering,” he explains.
However, now the government has tightened restrictions for social gatherings as COVID-19 numbers begin to rise.
This has forced the BIA to reconsider their assumptions as they look to approve the budget.
“Yes, we’re going to have more testing; yes, we’re going to have the [personal protective equipment] and all the equipment, but there’s certainly a feeling now that there’s going to be tighter control,” he says, adding it has had a big impact.
He says there were more events planned with the assumption that once next summer hits things would be back to normal, but things have changed.
The BIA will be looking for final approval on its budget on Thursday, Oct. 1 at its annual general meeting at 8 a.m.