Wentzville businesses might not need licenses if an idea floated at the city’s Board of Aldermen’s Wednesday takes flight.
During the meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Chris Gard said that given the time and effort the city puts into collecting from businesses that don’t pay the $50 business license fee on time, the $30,000 in funds the city receives might not be worth the effort.
Staff members said most of the city’s 600 businesses pay the $50 license fee on time, but about 30 to 40 businesses pay only after reminders or when they are visited by police officers.
Ward 1 Alderman Leon Tow said, “That’s the way we control whether you’re paying your real estate and personal property tax.”
The license isn’t issued unless the business also has paid its real estate and property taxes, he said.
Gard questioned if it is Wentzville’s job to chase down county taxes. Tow pointed out the city also receives a portion of the taxes collected by the county.
Ward 1 Alderman Cheryl Kross said the city does nothing if businesses don’t pay the license fee.
However, Interim City Administrator Dennis Walsh said the county takes legal action if a business doesn’t pay taxes for two years in a row.
“If you get too far behind, the Missouri DOR (Department of Revenue) comes out and locks your doors. They are very reluctant to do that,” Walsh said.
History behind licenses
Community Development Director Doug Forbeck said the business license issue has a lot of history.
“What I’m finding is that there are a lot of reasons behind it,” Forbeck told aldermen. He said the license also helps the city keep tabs on businesses, ensuring they are legitimate and legal.
Police Chief Lisa Harrison said that along with the license, the city collects emergency contact information that is passed along to police and fire district officials in case of fires and other emergencies.
“If you can’t afford a $50 fee, are you really in business in Wentzville,” Walsh said.
Some board members were unconvinced. Ward 2 Alderman Vann Sample said the license fee would be OK if it were tied to code enforcement, but it’s not.
“We’re just using it as a means to collect revenue,” Sample said. “To me, it’s not in the best interests of the citizens when we’re just using it to line the pockets of the city.”
Several aldermen said they wanted input from staff and the city attorney to make sure there are no unintended consequences to eliminating business licenses.
The issue was scheduled for discussion during the Feb. 8 board meeting.