City Commission To Hold Public Hearing On Proposed License Fee Amendment On Nov. 19
Commission Tables Amendment Until Public Input
The Harrodsburg Board of Commissioners tabled an ordinance raising the occupational license fee until a public hearing. The hearing will be held Friday, Nov. 19, at noon.
Last month, the commission unanimously approved ordinance 2021-23, which amends the occupational license fee the city charges every person and business entity engaged in any trade, occupation, profession or other activity for profit. They voted to implement a three tier structure, charging $100 for businesses with up to five employees, $300 for businesses with 6 to 20 employees and $1,500 for businesses employing 21 or more. The fee is currently $25.
At the regular commission meeting on Monday, Nov. 8, David Hart questioned how the license fee amendment would be structured. In particular, Hart, the owner of Ace Hardware, wanted to know if the fee would be based on the number of employees on the property at one time or the total number of employees.
Commissioner Adam Johnson, who proposed the new fee structure, explained it would be based on how many employees the business claimed on their taxes.
“We have to streamline it somehow,” Johnson said.
“It seems like we’re bringing on a cumbersome system,” Hart said.
In addition to changing the license fee rate structure, the amended ordinance would create an enforcement procedure, allowing the code enforcement officer and the city police to issue citations for violators. Even then, officials have stressed taxpayers would be on the honor system. It’s up to each business to report how many people they employ.
On Monday, Hart said the commission was penalizing business owners for doing the right thing. While he said he agreed with stepping up enforcement, he said the city needed to do a better job informing business owners about fees and ordinances, including posting more information online. While noting that Harrodsburg was lower than other communities in most fees and taxes, he wondered why the commission didn’t look for others ways to increase revenue.
“Bring that money in from everybody, instead of hammering the business owners,” Hart said. “I’d hate to see businesses looking for loopholes and looking for ways around it.”
Mayor Billy Whitenack said the license fee seemed to be in need of amendment, as it currently charges businesses the same amount, regardless of their size.
“We didn’t think it was fair for somebody with 1,400 employees paying $25 a year and somebody with one employee paying $25 a year,” Whitenack.
Hart also took exception to a remark Commissioner Johnson made at the previous meeting. At that meeting, Commissioner Jennifer Kazimer had questioned the increase in the license fee. “I feel like it’s too big a jump,” Kazimer said at the time. In response, Johnson noted the fee, which is due on or before Jan. 1, is good for the whole year.
“You’re covered for a year,” Johnson said. “If your business isn’t making a hundred dollars a year, you don’t need to be in business.”
Kazimer said Johnson’s other remarks during that meeting had not been reported.
“They really didn’t hear the whole story,” Kazimer said.
“That’s not good,” Hart said.
“It ain’t just this $100. All businesses get hit hard,” Hart said. “We don’t need a wedge driven.”
Commissioner Kazimer suggested meeting with business owners before taking any further action on the ordinance.
“I think you would have a showing,” Hart said. “We’ve all got to be partners.”
There will be a special-called meeting for citizens to express their concerns and questions about the ordinance amendment on Friday, Nov. 19, at noon, at Harrodsburg City Hall.
The city commission also discussed what to do with some city owned properties. Commissioner Johnson said they needed to take a look at surplussing several lots around town, mentioning lots by the armory the city had purchased as part of a community block development grant. Johnson said they needed to put them back on the market, starting with vacant lots.
Asked about the former police headquarters on Chiles Street, Johnson said that is still being used while the county transitions over to Bluegrass 911.
Mayor Whitenack noted the city owns property on Fort Street.
“I think it would serve a better purpose if somebody would buy it and build a house there,” Whitenack said.
Johnson said he would provide the commissioners with a list of properties he thinks could be liquidated. No action was taken.
It seems very unreasonable that the meeting us being held at noon, many business owners will have a difficult time attending. This meeting should have been held after 6:30 PM when most owners can be there.