Hall County officials are moving forward with changes to the fee schedule for business licenses, which will both simplify the rate structure and slightly increase costs.
Hall County bases its rates on a tiered system that accounts for the number of employees a business has. More workers equal higher costs for an occupational license.
Under the current rate structure, businesses pay more in Hall than in several neighboring communities, such as Forsyth County and the city of Cumming, up until the higher end of the spectrum.
Depending on the number of employees, a business also pays more or less in Cherokee County, with costs exceeding those in Hall when 75 or more employees are counted.
Perhaps surprisingly, fees are cheaper in Hall than in Gainesville.
That will remain true if the changes are approved.
The Board of Commissioners will hold a final reading and vote on the proposed changes on June 25.
Though the number of rate levels will be reduced from 18 to six, fees will rise by about 10 percent overall.
So many businesses will be paying more for a license, and others a little less, which they have to renew every year.
There are more than 3,100 businesses licensed by the county. The total revenue for licensing fees in 2014 was $757,515.
This figure amounts to about 50 percent of the total revenue collected by the Business License Department, according to officials, which also collects hotel/motel taxes and alcohol licensing fees, among others.
About half of all fees collected are mandated and set by the state, not Hall County.
Officials made other changes to business licensing operations last year, including scrapping verification paperwork on the number employed by a business.
Officials also established a requirement that businesses be properly licensed before opening, with no grace period, and supported a reduction in the 90-day grace period for late penalties and interest to 31 days.
Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said it’s always important for businesses to have stability in regulation and costs.
While not an impediment to starting up, any increased costs from licensing fees can be one more concern for new businesses.
“I think business owners see it as a tax at the end of the day,” Evans said. “For small business owners, those can be significant numbers.”