Trade Licensing, The Toll Taken
As we told you in our last newscast, Belize City's most popular and posh gym, Body 2000 was forcibly shut down on Friday afternoon by police - by order of the city council. Several gym members couldn't finish their afternoon workout session and expressed their dissatisfaction because of the abrupt shut down.
But don't blame city hall; apparently, the owner of the gym didn't pay his 2015 trade license. Today we spoke to the mayor about it and although he doesn't delve into the case with Body 2000, he says this is a representation of a broader issue concerning the trade license law.
Darrell Bradley, Mayor - Belize City
"Well I can't explain in relation to that business, but I can say that at a certain period through the year usually it is at this period when you're going to a second quarter that there's a lot of emphasis at the city council on collection of outstanding both property and trade license. So that we have done a tremendous job in trying to ensure that we are able to have reasonably respectable rates of collection of both property and trade. Our trade collection rate is about 97% which is very high for the country and even very high internationally in terms of region that we have a very high collection rate. For property taxes our collection is about 80%, so what that means is that 80 % of the people that we bill in a year actually pay the property taxes within that year and we actually gone up to...when I became mayor it was like 67%. So we've gone up by about 13% through our strategies like the driver's license issue, like the improvement in infrastructure and things like that
but we do have to have high collection rates because that correlates to the servancy of the city so that while I am not aware of the specific incident with the Body 2000, I must say that they were open this morning, because I was at the gym this morning - that is my gym. I didn't have any incidents or there wasn't anybody there to close them down. I can say that we have tried to do a lot of work in revamping the trade license law. I have said this publicly and I do maintain that it's not supportive of business generation within our city. You have trade license in the city and property taxes in the city. Ladyville has no trade license, Ladyville has no property taxes. so that we've seen that urban flight if you will that a lot of businesses are moving across the bridge which is now a large population center and they are not paying any trade or property taxes so that we need to be competitive as municipality. We've tried to see if we can lower the rate. We have the task force which has come up with five very strong proposals in relation to how we want to modify that law that was done in collaboration with the city council, the mayors association and the chamber of commerce and I think those are things which need to be in place. I think the rate is too high. Its 25%. So that if you're talking about a new business to have to...and its tax that's paid in advance not in arrears so that before if you have a burger place before you sell 1 burger, if you have a patty place before you sell 1 patty, if you have a hot dog place, before you sell 1 hot dog you have to pay 25% of your annual rental value. I think stakeholders recognized that this law needs to be changed. We just have to do it and that's not something that the city council does. This is a central government law. We have put together a strong recommendation in relation to what needs to be done and it just needs to be address."
As you heard in the interview, the gym has been reopened. This was confirmed when we spoke with the owner this evening and he reassured us that everything has been settled. He told us that he has met with the Mayor and that there was a discrepancy in the council's records but that the issue has been resolved.