By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The Oshawa Downtown BIA will see a considerable increase in its budget this year.
Council has approved the BIA’s request for a budget of $649,250, the largest in the organization’s history.
The budget cap of $251,000 placed on the BIA, as well as the current $50 minimum and $5,500 maximum levies will also be eliminated.
According to Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr, Oshawa was one of only two municipalities in the province with such a cap.
In a delegation made to the development services committee earlier this month, executive director Amanda McDonald told councillors the budget cap severely hinders the BIA’s ability to meet its mandate and vision.
Kerr said when considering inflation, the BIA’s budget compared to 30 years ago would be well over $600,000.
“We’re putting our BIA on a level pegging with every other BIA in the province,” he noted.
However, both councillors from Ward 5 were troubled with the budget increase, but for different reasons.
Councillor Brian Nicholson said he believes the BIA didn’t consult enough with its members about the changes.
“I think there has to be further consultation with the membership,” he said.
Nicholson said with the BIA’s budget more than doubled, he was disappointed with the lack of detail about what is in it.
“I’m never going to approve a budget that just gives us a monetary figure, but doesn’t lay out details,” he said.
For Ward 5 city councillor John Gray, the increase was a case of too much too soon.
“My biggest disappointment is they didn’t even try to phase it in,” Gray said.
Kerr said a phased-in approach would “handcuff” the BIA from a staffing perspective.
He explained they’ve already had to cut staff and reduce hours.
While Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson agreed the increase was happening at a very rapid pace, he believes the case for it had been made.
“It’s at a point now where it’s time to get on with it. They need, at some point, to know what their budget for the year is going to look like,” Giberson added.
Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey said she has spoken to many in the downtown area, and they were supportive of the BIA’s plans.
“Nobody was speaking ill of our Downtown BIA, so I think it’s time to show that we are in support,” she said.