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Enforcing license requirements boosts Jeffersons budget
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Keeping a closer eye on businesses that violate local ordinances has helped the city of Jefferson improve its bottom line.

Last year, the city made a push to bring all businesses current on their licenses.

“When we first started, we had approximately 75 businesses with delinquent licenses,” said City Manager John Ward. “By going ahead with enforcement, we’re now only dealing with around 20 delinquent businesses.”

In July 2008, City Clerk Elizabeth McDonald mailed delinquent notices to business owners who had not paid their license fees from 2005 to that time, according to a city memo. The notices were then followed up by phone calls from city Quality of Life officer Keith Robinson.

Business owners who still hadn’t renewed their licenses were sent an additional notice when the usual batch of renewal letters were sent out to all business owners in January. License fees were due on April 1, and Robinson began again calling all delinquent license owners in May.

There were several factors that led to some businesses being able to continue operating without a valid license for so long, Ward said.

“Among other things, it was a tie into the creation of the code enforcement officer position through the city police department and also a change in the city clerk position,” said Ward. “Moving into 2008, we had a switch in the city clerk position and that is when we actually did an assessment of the business license programs and also then initiated the enforcement of the city codes. The code enforcement officer position creation was unrelated, but it also happened around the same time.”

Although the city has been able to reduce the number of delinquent business license holders by more than half, officials are not stopping there.

During the last City Council work session, city staff recommended moving forward with citing owners who have not paid their business license fees.

“Penalties could include late fees,” said Ward. “They could also face fines up to $500 for operating a business without a license.”

The cost of a business license is determined by the number of employees a business has. The price can range from $100-$400 for most businesses and is the same for home and actual brick and mortar businesses. Insurance company business licenses cost $40.