South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Crestwood aldermen to weigh business-license proposal

Pickel questions Mayor Robinson on review of fee proposal

Crestwood aldermen were set this week to consider a provision allowing existing service businesses to be permanently taxed for their business licenses by square footage instead of a proposed more expensive system based on gross receipts.

As proposed, the city would eliminate the “service business” classification and tax all new businesses coming into Crestwood based on the more costly gross-receipts system.

The Board of Aldermen was set to vote on the proposal Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The city reportedly has close to 50 service businesses. These include personal-service businesses like banks, financial institutions, tourism business and education providers.

After some existing service businesses had complained of the proposed higher taxes, Mayor Roy Robinson suggested to the administration at a May 8 Board of Aldermen meeting that he would like to see a “permanent grandfather” tax for them.

Aldermen then voted to extend a grandfather clause one more year for existing service businesses.

In the spring of 2006, aldermen voted to accept changes proposed by former City Clerk Kimberly Cottle to the city’s business-license code, including the elimination of the service-business classification.

Because of complaints of dramatic fee hikes from owners of businesses that previously had been classified as service, al-dermen included the grandfather provision to tax those businesses based on their square footage instead of gross receipts.

The city conducts its business-license review period in May and June.

Proposed business-license fee jumps for some service businesses ranged from some once paying $200 per year to paying more than $1,500 per year, according to city officials. Other businesses saw proposed annual fee increases of $800 or $900.

In the city staff’s initial recommendation, Cottle wrote in an April 2006 memo to Myers that the city would be wise to eliminate the service-business classification not only because such businesses often pay less for business licenses, but because the classification is rarely included in other Missouri cities and difficult to define.

Myers has also said that based on conversation with Cottle last year, he believes businesses were coming into the city and trying to take advantage of a business classification that was difficult to define.

Up until last year’s revisions to the business code, it had been mostly unchanged since 1975.

After vowing to form a committee to re-view the proposed business-code changes, Robinson met Aug. 15 with the city’s Ways and Means Committee to discuss the proposal.

At that time, the committee tabled recommending the proposal after Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel and Ward 4 Alderman John Foote expressed a desire to see a comparison of Crestwood’s business-license structure with other cities.

Upon learning that the Ways and Means Committee reviewed the proposed code changes, Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel said he was curious as to why that committee and not the city’s business-license review board would study the proposal.

Pickel said during the Board of Aldermen’s Sept. 11 meeting that he was under the impression that he, Foote and Board of Aldermen President Gregg Roby would be studying the proposal as part of their duties on the business-license review board.

“I read with interest in last week’s issue of the SunCrest Call that the city is reviewing and discussing business-license fees,” Pickel said. “I guess my question, Mr. Mayor, is why did Ways and Means take it upon themselves to conduct that review?”

“Because I was … we tried to get a group together,” Robinson said. “We could never get any of the business people together. And the board chastised, to a degree, about not getting this accomplished. And I promised I think it was (Ward 4) Alderman (Steve) Nieder that I would get on it and we would get something accomplished so we would be on firm ground by next business period. So you’ll be hearing from our recommendations. We’re not doing anything other than coming up with recommendations. So if you don’t like them, you can change them at that time.”

“I understand that,” Pickel said. “But my question really is we are supposed to have this business-license review board. In fact, back in May, you appointed three members of this board to that board.”

“No, that’s not the … that’s not the business,” Robinson said. “Your role in the business-review board is to review businesses who’ve had a complaint.”

“And develop recommendations as I understood it at the time,” Pickel said.

“Hmm?” Robinson said.

“And to develop recommendations as I understood it at the time,” Pickel said. “When we talked about last year’s licenses, we talked about the business-license review board and the importance of that board in looking at the procedures in place.”

“OK, when did I appoint you?” Robinson said. “In April?”

“In May, when you appointed me and everyone else,” Pickel said. “I believe you appointed me, Alderman Foote and Alderman Roby.”

“Did you all, did you all … you knew that we had a thing,” Robinson said. “But nobody came to me and said …”

“There’s no further direction,” Pickel interjected. “Who’s on the board? Just the three of us.”

“That was the … the business,” Robinson said. “Your job as a business-review board is to take complaints that come into the city about … they want to challenge their monies that is being charged for the business license. That’s the whole intent on that. That’s what it’s meant from all the time I’ve been here. It has not extended beyond that. So we took it upon ourselves after getting criticized a few times about not having it and ‘What have you done on the business license?’ I figured it out myself and I said ‘Well, I’ll get it done.’

“And that’s what we’re doing. We’re moving forward. And you will have opportunity to insert, reject or whatever when it comes before the board.”

“That’s a change from the original intent, and I just wanted to document that,” Pickel said. “Thank you.”

“OK,” Robinson said. “Then I’ll have to change the boards next time to make sure we know exactly what the limits of our assignments are.”

“It better be clearly defined,” Pickel said.

“Hmm?” Robinson said.

“It better … it ought to be defined,” Pickel said.

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