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Chamber survey shows support for Prescott business-license program

People fill Prescott City Hall to give their comments about the Prescott Fire and Police Department budgets and staffing Tuesday night April 5, 2016 during a city council meeting at City Hall in Prescott. Public comment was pushed to a future meeting by Mayor Harry Oberg. (Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier)

People fill Prescott City Hall to give their comments about the Prescott Fire and Police Department budgets and staffing Tuesday night April 5, 2016 during a city council meeting at City Hall in Prescott. Public comment was pushed to a future meeting by Mayor Harry Oberg. (Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier)

PRESCOTT – A majority of local business owners who responded to a recent Prescott Chamber of Commerce survey support the implementation of a business license – especially if the license fee is less than $50.

That was one of the points that came up Tuesday, April 5, when the Prescott City Council continued its consideration of a new business-license program.

In a late-February survey of its membership, the Chamber of Commerce received 125 responses (a 13 percent response).

Seventy-seven of those who responded (62 percent) said they support a business license to some degree. The majority of those (55 of the 77) said they favor a business license if there is a nominal fee of less than $50, while 22 of the respondents said they would support the license only if there is no fee.

On the other hand, 48 of the respondents (38 percent) indicated opposition to a business license, with 43 of those expressing opposition to the license even if there is no fee, and five saying they would not favor a business license if there is a nominal fee.

Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO David Maurer said after the meeting that the chamber board has yet to take an official position on the matter, but could discuss it again at its April 20 meeting.

The license the city is proposing would fall within the chamber’s “nominal fee” range – at $35 per year.

Prescott Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill pointed out to the council that the proposed program would be “revenue-neutral,” meaning that it would raise only enough revenue to cover the cost of administering the license.

In addition, Woodfill said, the goal is to “keep it as simple as we can, because that’s the key.”

The program would require most businesses and people who conduct business in the city to be licensed, with certain specific exceptions.

Among the exceptions would be: casual activity or sales (yard sales, sale of personal vehicles, part-time seasonal business activities by those younger than 18; churches engaged solely as a place of worship; public and private schools; governmental agencies; political organizations and homeowner associations; and businesses located outside city limits whose only business in Prescott is delivery of pre-ordered goods.

The ordinance also states that a single license would be required for multiple professionals co-located at a single address.

Among the registration information required would be: name and physical location; contact information; emergency contact information; start date and sales tax license number; presence of hazardous materials; ownership type; owners, partners, LLC members, and officers; and business type (for instance: retail, restaurant, construction, professional, real estate, transitional group homes, long-term group homes, residential rental).

The council discussion on implementation of a business license began in February, and is expected to continue through early May. The council will consider the matter again on April 19, with public comment allowed, and a decision on the license is scheduled for May 3. If approved, the ordinance would become effective on June 2, and the city is proposing a yearlong grace period for implementation.

While a majority of council members have voiced support for the business license, some opposition has come up.

Councilman Greg Lazzell, who previously stated his concerns about the program, repeated his opposition Tuesday: “I just think this is wrong,” he said, prompting agreement from Councilman Jim Lamerson and disagreement from Councilwoman Jean Wilcox, who said, “I think this is right.”

Councilwoman Billie Orr, a strong supporter of the license, maintained that it would offer “many positive sides for business,” such as the inexpensive “advertising” the citywide list would provide.

And referring to the Chamber of Commerce’s survey, Orr pointed out that a majority of business owners support the idea.

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