Taking an action at its Tuesday regular meeting that may benefit many small businesses in Colorado Springs, City Council voted to eliminate almost all business licensing fees, thereby foregoing nearly $400,000 in annual revenue.
Businesses ranging from concrete contractors to operators of “circuses and menageries” must still apply for city licensure, but there will be no charge for the initial license, or for license renewal.
Businesses that fail to apply for necessary licenses will be fined $20, and will not be further penalized.
The primary sponsor of the ordinances, Councilor Helen Collins, argued successfully that the revenue loss would be insignificant compared to the potential impact on the city’s economy.
“We’ll be unique in the state and unique in the country,” she said, “no business licensing fees!”
Councilor Joel Miller agreed.
“We hand out money for years and years to organizations for economic development, in the hope that the recipients will do something (beneficial),“ he said. “(These ordinances) will immediately benefit business.”
Councilor Val Snider saw things differently.
“If we do away with these fees, which are based on cost recovery,” he contended, “we’ll be burdening the general taxpayer.”
City Clerk Sarah Johnson also spoke against the measures.
“As you know,” she said “we’ll be coming to you in September with a holistic approach, rolling these proposals into a complete overhaul, and involving many of our partners.”
Council President Pro Tem Merv Bennett agreed with Johnson.
“I’d like to see us postpone action until September,” he said. “This will give us an opportunity to partner with the city clerk and the administration.”
But Council President Keith King had the last word.
“In 1977, when I was a young businessman selling waterbeds, the city informed me that I had to pay a fee because our company financed its customers’ waterbed purchases,” he recalled. “So when I got to the Legislature, I did everything I could to reduce and eliminate all these fees. I will support these ordinances.”
The four related ordinances passed on identical 5-4 votes. In support: Councilors Andy Pico, Don Knight, Joel Miller, Helen Collins and Keith King. Opposed: Jan Martin, Val Snider, Merv Bennett and Jill Gaebler.
City chief financial officer Kara Skinner previously had expressed the administration’s opposition to the measures. A 5-4 vote would not suffice to overturn a potential mayoral veto, so Council’s action may not stand.