Gainesville City Council moved forward on two measures Tuesday night that would increase an annual tax on businesses by a maximum of $50 and increase the fees for construction permits.
City Council approved first readings for both ordinances, one which would raise the city’s occupation tax and another that would increase fees for the Inspections Division.
The city’s occupation tax, which is similar to a business license fee, will increase by about $30 for most businesses, according to city reports.
City officials said the increase would serve to cover additional administrative costs incurred from extra paperwork required by the state’s controversial Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.
Melody Marlowe, the city’s administrative services director, said the immigration bill has been an “administrative nightmare” for agencies across the state. House Bill 87 requires local government agencies to make sure businesses in their jurisdictions fill out additional paperwork to ensure compliance with immigration law. Additional information is also needed for the city’s vendors.
Gainesville is looking at adding an additional employee to help carry the extra load.
The change in the tiered fees would mean an increase of between $10 and $50 for city businesses, depending on the number of employees.
City Council members criticized state legislators for not providing money to institute the new regulation and forcing city and county governments to cover the costs.
“It’s a clear example of an unfunded mandate,” said Councilwoman Ruth Bruner.
Councilman George Wangemann said he’d normally vote against a tax increase, but the city’s hands are tied because of the law.
“Someone has to pay the freight for an extra person we will need to enforce the anti-immigration law,” he said.
The last increase on the occupation tax was in 2004.
The city is also raising fees for inspection and plan review services. That change comes as the city looks to close the gap between expenses and fees of the Inspections Division. In other words, the city council is hoping the adjustment would allow the fees to cover the costs of the inspections.
“The department needs to stand on its own and be able to pay for itself,” said Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners raised fees for its Planning and Zoning and Inspections divisions in January, also looking to make the fees pay for the services.
According to city documents, Gainesville planning fees would be comparable, but slightly cheaper than the county’s.
Both proposed hikes will need a second approval by City Council at the next meeting.