Business levyBy Jade Lawton

BERWICK Village traders will soon be asked to pay an extra levy on their rates to fund projects and special events in the town.
The Berwick Village Chamber of Commerce (BVCC) and the City of Casey plan to introduce a Business Improvement District (BID) levy to Berwick.
The special rate – which could be about $300 a year – would pay for a centre manager, marketing and events, and could possibly including the return of Berwick’s defunct Family Fun Day.
BVCC president Harry Hutchinson said the chamber and council had been in talks about BID for almost a decade, and that the system was already running successfully across 70 Victorian towns.
The levy could be introduced for the 2011-12 financial year if 51 per cent of businesses approve in a vote to be held later this year.
“We will be in control of our own marketplace. We take control away from The City of Casey, and if there are any issues, we will sort them out,” Mr Hutchinson said. “Every business will be involved, not just a small number. We will employ a centre manager that will be responsible for the centre and organising events.”
Proposed boundaries of the BID will be Clyde Road (Enterprise Avenue not included), the car dealerships on the highway, all business on Lyall Road through to Pioneers Park, businesses both sides of Wheeler Street, and High Street and Gloucester Avenue, down to the railway station.
Mr Hutchinson said the levy would fund various events, including a food and wine festival, Family Fun Day, Education Week events, Fashion Week, and an event for medical providers and something for the professional service providers.
“We intend to advertise Berwick as a complete business precinct – Berwick has a lot more to offer than a shopping centre,” he said. “Soon all businesses will be notified and we will be having a series of meetings. We want to bombard businesses with information about this; we want them to be informed.”
Each business paying the levy would become a member of the chamber.
City of Casey manager of economic development David Wilkinson said the chamber first needed to develop a costed business plan and then request council undertake the BID process, which would involve consultation with all property owners in the identified area.
“The Berwick Chamber of Commerce would identify the area and the amount of levy would be identified through the Business Plan for the area over a specified period, with the cost of delivering the desired projects calculated over the life of the plan. The overall cost would be divided amongst property owners in the BID area and a special rate set to cover those costs. The identified amount is then collected by council and provided to the Chamber of Commerce to implement the projects.”
Mr Hutchinson said the chamber’s five-year business plan would be completed soon, and a copy would be emailed to traders.

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