As I have been campaigning throughout the city, people have continuously expressed concern about the lack of jobs and the lack of economic development in general.
Years ago, the City of Kingston had numerous small businesses dotting the landscape. Many of the businesses were owner occupied. There were small grocers, barbershops, butchers, and so forth. Many semi-retired lawyers, doctors, and other professional businessmen renovated their living rooms or parlors into a small part-time office.
Sadly, there are precious few of these types of businesses remaining in the City of Kingston. One of the reasons why is the homestead versus non-homestead tax differential. Currently, the tax rate for a business is more than double the residential rate. Thus, if a person decides to open a business in their home, they are facing a substantial increase in their property taxes. This expense makes it financially unwise to make such an investment. Granted, one may petition the Planning Board to get some portion of the property levied at the residential rate, but such a process is long, tiring, and cumbersome.
If you drive through the City of Kingston, the number of empty storefronts is staggering. Something must be done to stimulate our local economy and get these storefronts open for business once again.
Since the City of Kingston needs economic development in the worst way, and since owner occupied businesses are something the city also needs, it is time for the tax law in Kingston to be amended.
I propose that a business that is owner occupied be levied at the homestead rate instead of the commercial (non-homestead) rate. The property would have to be truly owner occupied. Simply having a cot in the back room would be insufficient. This law would apply only to those people who own a business and actually reside on premises, perhaps in an apartment above the store, or something similar. The law would also require a criminal penalty for those falsely claiming residence to avail themselves of the tax benefit.
The intention is to provide an incentive for people considering or actually operating a small business out of their residence or in a building annexed to their residence. The business community in Kingston has been stifled with high taxes and choking city regulations and red tape. We need to offer incentives to our businesses to get them growing and expanding again.
Naysayers will no doubt question this proposal and wonder aloud how the tax break would be funded. These same naysayers have not offered one single plan to improve our local economy, create jobs, address the crushing level of taxes, cut city spending, or fight crime. As I have noted before, my comprehensive plan contains more than enough spending cuts to allow for this plan, as well as my previous business proposals. The residents will not see their taxes increase as a result of this plan.
We must get our local economy started and running again. We need jobs and economic development so our citizens can work and earn a good living.