Stratford councillors want to know who the community thinks should pay when it comes to economic development projects and initiatives within the district.
Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke says the question is raised in council's Long Term Plan (LTP) consultation document which is out now.
"There is no question we need to invest in economic development, but we want to know who the community thinks should pay when it comes to some of this activity."
Currently, he says, the cost of economic development activities that foster the local economy and increase a general sense of town pride is met by all ratepayers, but some projects have a focus that are of greater benefit to business owners.
"The LTP consultation document asks ratepayers if they want the present system to continue, or if they would prefer a targeted rate for economic development, that shifts a higher portion of the cost onto business operators."
Moving to the economic development targeted rate is council's preferred option he says, and deputy mayor Alan Jamieson agrees, but has some reservations.
"I agree with it in principle, it is a good idea, but I hope people do have a good look at the map showing where the zone sits and I hope there is some good debate around the actual detail of the boundary as it sits."
Alan, who owns a hire business on Pembroke Rd says his own business falls into the rateable area.
"I believe the map has limitations. If the economic development is for businesses, it should cover all businesses in our district. It also needs to be determined what is the economic development funding is for."
Alan says he doesn't disagree that the cost of economic development needs to be met and he does think it is fair to put 25 per cent of the total cost onto businesses, not private residents.
"A targeted rate means we are channelling the money in the right direction into the right projects."
Councillor Rick Coplestone also owns a business that falls in the rateable area, and like Alan, has some reservations about the detail of the proposal.
"As a commercial operator I cannot see how I am related to the economic development rate as most of my business is run away from Stratford, but as a district councillor I know the money for economic development must come from somewhere."
"It concerns me that at this rate it could turn out to be a little unfair. The problem it raises in council is how to target the groups that will benefit from this rate."
He would prefer more discussion around how to target those groups before a decision is made.
"Commercial rates in Stratford are relatively low in comparison to other parts of the country, therefore maybe we need to bring these rates up to date."
Stratford Business Association (SBA) chairman, Matthew Dimock says the SBA is hosting an open meeting next week for members to come along and ask questions of councillors about the proposed long term plan inclusion of a Targeted Economic Development rate.
"At this meeting our members will be talked through how to make a council submission and also give their feedback on the night. We encourage all of our members to come along, ask questions and share feedback. We also encourage our members and the wider community to take the time to make a submission on the proposals."
He says the SBA committee is yet to decide if it will make a submission on behalf of the SBA as a whole.
"As a committee at our next meeting we will be discussing and making a decision on if we will be making a submission as a committee. Any submissions made to council needs to be passed through a committee meeting first."
Alan says it is important people make submissions on this as well as the rest of the LTP draft.
"If we don't get submissions then everything will just go ahead exactly as proposed. We need the submissions to help us make the right decisions for the community."
Neil says he encourages people to ask questions of their councillors, to attend meetings on the LTP if they can and to think about what they want.
"The LTP impacts everyone in the district, so its important people think about the issues and questions raised in the draft LTP and give us their feedback."
Have your say: Visit www.stratford.govt.nz for more information on the LTP consultation and how to have your say on this issue and others.
SBA meeting on LTP: Centennial Restrooms, Monday, April 19. 5.30pm.
Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council.