Betty Stock of the Montreal comic book store Librairie Astro, established in 1984, has put out a plea for help. She writes,
The economic climate for small business is always challenging but, since the recession of 2008, the challenges have gotten much harder. Small businesses in the City of Montreal are no exception and one store, Librairie Astro, a specialist in comic books and graphic novels, is struggling to survive.
The main culprit is a much higher than expected commercial tax bill. The 2014 annual survey compiled and analyzed by Altus Group for the Real Property Association of Canada (REALpac) found that Montreal’s estimated commercial property taxes per $1,000 of assessment was $37.12, the highest of Canada’s major cities and well above the average of $24.25. Montreal’s residential property taxes per $1,000 of assessment was $8.27, lower than the average. The result is a commercial-to-residential ratio of 4.49, also the highest of Canada’s major cities.
“Montreal’s a great place to live; we love it here,” noted Paul Stock, Librairie Astro’s owner. “Mr. Denis Coderre’s administration is actually getting things done. Now we’re getting winter snow removal, those legendary potholes are getting filled in, and streets are even getting resurfaced, something we haven’t really seen for over a decade. But these improvements come at a cost. Our yearly city tax bill has swollen to an enormous size, leaving us with a significant shortfall.”
“Winter has never been easy, but the past few years have been particularly harsh,” Stock added. “People have learned that a good way to deal with the cold is to cocoon. Cocooning may be a smart way to deal with winter, but it’s a killer for us. With few people (and therefore little money) coming in, there was simply no way we could be ready for the city tax bill that hit at the end of March.”
Stock hopes that using GoFundMe, a crowdfunding platform, can help offset the difference. “Landlords pay the tax bills first, then they pass the cost on to their commercial tenants,” Stock noted. “This puts our backs so tight against the wall that we’re trying a GoFundMe crowdfunder. We’re just a small independent book/comic shop, not some huge outfit. We’re hard-working people trying to stay afloat.”
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