Councillors came close to spending $35,000 on a consultant to help design a heritage tax rebate program that has been studied and discussed for years.
But just as a vote was to be called Monday night, Coun. Allan Bisback questioned whether the work could be expedited by asking town staff to make recommendations to council on the design of the program.
It is still for implementation for 2021, and the money will have to be found to pay for it, he said.
There are decisions council has to make, such as the level of the rebate, which could be from 10 per cent to 40 per cent, which businesses would be eligible, and the details of the agreement with those who receive it.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero suggested other questions that would need to be answered, including how to ensure the person who pays the property tax get the rebate, whether an easement is required, “and the big question, where do we get the money?”
Coun. Wendy Cheropita asked if there could be something that could get money to the downtown merchants even faster, to help them in a crisis situation, but she was told the heritage tax rebate is not the proper tool to do that.
“The purpose of the rebate is to maintain heritage buildings,” said Disero. “It was never intended as a quick fix for catastrophic events. If we want to do something quickly we could look at other options, like a discretionary grant, rather than a rebate.”
After some discussion about how best to move forward, councillors agreed that a working group will be formed to come up with design elements of the rebate program to bring back for council approval, eliminating the need to hire a consultant.