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Berlin business license fees set, future review intended

By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer

(May 11, 2023) After much discussion at its previous meeting about totally making over the town’s business license fee structure, the Berlin Mayor and Council arrived at the original recommendation at its meeting on Monday.

In a 4-to-1 vote with Councilmember Dean Burrell opposed, the council approved doubling the business license fee for all businesses in town to $150.

Two weeks ago, the Mayor and Council discussed different scenarios in which the town might charge some businesses more depending on where they are located in town or based on a classification system.

Town Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells said she met with town administrator Mary Bohlen and Mayor Zack Tyndall after the meeting to discuss the matter and came to the conclusion that FY2024 is too soon to revamp the business license fee structure.

The new fiscal year starts on July 1.

“It was recommended to follow through the motion from the last meeting with the caveat that we will review and consider recommendations for further revisions to business licenses based on suggestions from the last meeting,” Wells said.

“The motion reads as it did previously … with the assumption of a new structure in place for FY25.”

There was also talk about how the town could capitalize on out-of-town businesses that do business in town, such as landscaping companies and realtors, but Wells and Bohlen both reiterated there just isn’t enough time to set something up for FY24.

“There are a lot of things to look at but we need to take the time to be able to look,” Wells said.

Knerr pressed, asking that if a business has to come before the Planning Commission first anyway, why can’t it be set up for FY24?

Finance Director Natalie Saleh responded that a business license, as defined in the town charter, is for a physical location attached to the town.

“(We’d have to) change the description,” Saleh said. “If you’re talking about the business to come and do business in town, and they don’t have a location, they wouldn’t fall under (the current description).”

Wells posed raised another possibility — creating a contract license.

“(We wouldn’t) have to change anything, just create a new fee schedule,” she said. “The code wouldn’t have to change. It would just be an additional amendment.”

Councilmember Steve Green pointed out that, on the other side of these deals, it likely wouldn’t be considered an unusual ask.

“(Electricians will ask), what’s the trader license fee? They really do expect it,” Greens said. “It’s a missed opportunity to help offset some (of the town’s current) expenses. We should definitely do it. Whether or not it affects the budget (we’ll see).”

Immediate revenue will be difficult to forecast right now, but Tyndall said the town should have a firmer idea of what it can expect a year from now.