The Haliburton BIA is reducing its levy eleven per cent due to the impact of the pandemic.

The BIA announced the measure at its annual general meeting Feb. 11. President Luke Schell said it is due to the pandemic cancelling the organization’s usual events, leaving them with an $18,000 surplus in 2020. In total, the BIA will collect $45,000 in 2021, down 11 per cent from $49,980 the previous year.

Schell said the reduction could carry on beyond 2021 as well.

“It’s been a strange year,” Schell said. “We will reduce it over the next couple of years – partly because we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The BIA is still budgeting for its usual slate of events in 2021 – including Frost Fest, Colour Fest, the Santa Parade and Ladies Shopping Night. But treasurer Nelly Ashworth said the levy could decrease again if those events cannot go ahead.

“Slowly, once we hopefully get out of this and life’s going to come back to relatively normal, we can slowly increase it again should need be,” Ashworth said.

However, she noted the BIA was still able to do other things in the pandemic such as increasing its advertising and Buy In and Win contest funding. In an address, Mayor Andrea Roberts said it has been a difficult year for the downtown.

“I do want to share with you at this time how proud I am of how the businesses in the downtown BIA have adapted and accommodated and shifted in this everchanging world of the pandemic,” she said. “Some of you are busier than you’ve ever been and some of you are hurting immensely.”

She added the municipality did start a recovery committee, but it is not meeting right now because “we’re not in recovery mode.” But she said they would inform the BIA when the committee reconvenes to discuss how to help local businesses.

Schell said one of the more successful BIA initiatives was working with the municipality to expand downtown patios in the summer due to pandemic restrictions.

“Really appreciated having the municipality fast track that,” Schell said.

He added the BIA will likely do it again this summer. However, he noted it is a debatable subject and there are liability concerns.

“But I think most people are pretty happy with that kind of service on main street,” Schell said. The BIA board once again remained mostly static. There was only one change – Upriver Trading Co. owner Mike Mckeon replacing Sharon Rowden.

“I know that we all enjoy serving our community in this fashion and we look forward to spending another year here,” Schell said. “Hopefully, 2020 is hindsight.”

Get The Highlander in your inbox every Thursday