City Proposes Another Tax On Business

January 17, 2005
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We were skeptical several years ago when the city announced new and improved services to the business community, promising “one-stop” teamwork inside to assist those outside. Now comes city staff, proposing to city commissioners that the city establish a fee schedule and make developers pay for those streamlined city services. It’s not a joke, but it is.

AssistantCity Manager Victor Vasquez Jr. told commissioners that developers, contractors and even city staff all have voiced frustration with services. The answer to that frustration, in the minds of staff, is to add the insult of fee assessment for that frustration. Further, the recommendation is to add more employees to the city payroll, specifically in the land development services office, and make businesses pay for the whole department. The cost of 4.1 staff in the last fiscal year was $325,600, and Vasquez and City Manager Kurt Kimball would have 5.8 employees, raising staff costs to $478,400. Allow it to be said that if business owners are “hiring” they should set the wage and benefit level, using the real world of pricing, to determine the number of staff — and most importantly supervise the staff in the course if its work.

The proposal amounts to an additional tax on business. Hardest hit are those businesses that provide an ever-growing revenue stream for the city — developers whose mission is to plant commercial businesses in the city limits. Developers in the last year provided more new residential dwellings than the city has seen in any year. One could suppose that the amount of activity related to the ongoing downtown development and neighborhood improvements have certainly given the staff additional work, but to suggest such a penalty for the new revenue stream and increased property values is absurd. Development is good for the city.

Kimball said, “This is an example where we have the wherewithal to establish a fee structure to cover the cost associated with doing it right, without being a burden on our taxpayers.” It sounds as though staff has forgotten that business owners are some of the biggest single taxpayers within the city limits. It sounds as though the city is too burdened by development, and perhaps developers will look outside the city to assuage their pain.

The proposal also included suggestions to improve “customer interface:” consolidation of a number of city permits and a check-off form to assure various permits and regulations do not “fall through the cracks.” Plain and simple, that’s what the city promised more than five years ago with its promise of new and streamlined service to the business community. Government tends to grow itself, and the example would be in the requirement of ever more permits … and ever more fees associated with obtaining them.

Former Mayor John Logie was one who sat with staff and trained them (he thought) to “under promise and over deliver.” His lesson plan should be reviewed.

City limits signs should not be mistaken for “off limits.”    

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