Discussion set on business licenses

By Robert Chalupny

An administrative business license will be the subject of an upcoming round-table discussion between Green Park officials and members of the city’s business community.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last week to approve a motion by Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach to con-duct the meeting. A date for the discussion has not yet been set.

Green Park Chamber of Commerce President Jim Smoot, who historically has been opposed to the city establishing business licenses, told the Call he was encouraged by the board’s decision.

“It’s extremely pleasing that the city has decided to include us in a work session,” Smoot said.

However, Smoot told aldermen Oct. 20 that he still has concerns.

“(Ward 3) Alderman (Mark) Hayden made the motion last year that when the business license would be discussed again it would be predicated on the city doing an analysis of the capital-improvement tax and how it affects the city budget and how it affects the future budget,” Smoot said.

“If there was a shortfall or a problem with the dollars and the board said: ‘Well, this is the reason why we want to make a business license that we make money on that,’ would be some facts,” he continued.

“The subject of business licenses came up again and the business community was told that chamber members and non-chamber members would be invited to a round-table discussion with city officials. Again, to my knowledge, no meeting has been scheduled,” Smoot said.

Before discussing business licenses Oct. 20, aldermen were given a packet describing different types of business licenses that the city could administer — an administrative-only license with an application fee to cover processing expenses; a business license that includes a fee based on such factors as gross receipts, square footage or number of employees; a business license with a fixed fee based on the type of business; or a business license with a flat fee that would be the same for every business.

The motion to conduct the round-table discussion was proposed by Betlach originally, but that was before the board had chosen to seek feedback on an administrative business license, so there was some debate among board members.

Betlach said that the city should have the discussion with businesses and address the issue head on instead of letting it continue unresolved.

“The fact that a time ago we were going to have a round table with the businessmen and … we thought we had handled the issue rather well by just putting information out, but nobody showed up and we didn’t know why they didn’t show up,” Betlach said.

“I guess what I would suggest is that we propose a round-table work session where we not only have the Chamber of Commerce, but all the businesses … and come up with a proposed agenda and I’m not sure what date but maybe talking about things like why the city needs this administrative tool,” Betlach said.

After Betlach made her first motion to have the round-table discussion, board President Fred Baras of Ward 3 said there would be no point in having a discussion with the business community about business licenses before knowing which type of license the city wants to pursue.

“Let’s figure out which way we want to go, because we can take and invite the chamber and invite the businesses and we’ll still be beating around the bush as to whether we want to have an administrative or do we want to make money off of this?” Baras said.

At that point, Betlach amended her motion to say that the discussion would be for an administrative business license, which is the motion the board approved.

Smoot was given the opportunity to speak during the board’s discussion and he said that if the board made a decision, then he would support a meeting that he termed long overdue.

Though Smoot said he was encouraged by the board decision, he also said that he will stand by a recent survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce. Fifty of the city’s approximately 250 businesses responded to the survey and all the respondents opposed a Green Park business license.