The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce has urged Sarnia City Council to “think outside the box” and provide leadership with a view to increasing revenue without putting additional burdens on taxpayers.

The comments from the Chamber came in the form of a letter addressed to Mayor Mike Bradley and members of Council that was delivered to City Hall ahead of budget deliberations that took place earlier this week (Nov. 20, 2017)

Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva and Chair Michael Kooy, in acknowledging that “our goals are high,” also said the vision of the Chamber and its members is clear.

“We will need to work together as a community to succeed,” said the Chamber representatives.

In the letter, the Chamber focused its comments on three areas: taxation, debt, and infrastructure.

Taxation

The Chamber is advocating for revenue generation over cost reduction or increasing taxation. The organization said it supports Council’s direction to staff to research potential business incentives, including locked-in commercial tax rates and grants to offset development charges.

The Chamber advocates a “trial” period for the incentives to determine their effectiveness.

Debt

While the Chamber has congratulated the City for reducing its municipal debt, it reminded Council of its urging last year to take advantage of historically low debt and low-interest rates to invest in economic development projects. This year, it cited the partnership to redevelop the former Sarnia General Hospital site as an excellent investment that will revitalize a neighbourhood while removing what had become an eyesore, a fiscal burden, and a security risk.

The Chamber also pointed to funding for the Oversized Load Corridor by the City as a worthwhile investment.

Infrastructure

The Chamber is pleased that Sarnia is expanding its asset management plans pointing out that there is a minimum of $240 million in repairs, upgrades, and replacements needed.

The letter concluded with a recommendation to make wise investments “to create a more prosperous community which new and existing residents are proud to call home.”