Circuses, telegraph offices and boxing matches aren’t normal sights in Mount Airy these days, yet the city’s schedule of fees for business licenses still lists those and other outdated entries.
Changes could be in store for that fee schedule, based on discussion at a budget workshop of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners Wednesday. Not only are some of the regulated business listings themselves reminiscent of earlier times, so are the charges for licenses required for their operation — which have been unchanged for years.
For example, retail and other stores have paid an annual license fee of $25 for about a century. In fact, Commissioner Dean Brown said during Wednesday’s meeting that a framed copy of one of the first licenses issued to Leonard’s Jewelers — Mount Airy’s oldest business — reflects the $25 price.
The updating of license fees, which usually occurs at the start of a budget year, will not be done before the next fiscal year begins on July 1, but officials said Wednesday it should happen soon.
“It just seems to me that this is a small area we could look at to add some revenue,” Commissioner Teresa Lewis said.
“The fees really need to be raised across the board,” agreed Finance Director John Overton. “This has been on the to-do list for several years.”
Lewis said she doesn’t believe business people around town would consider a $200-a-year fee to be unacceptable.
One of the holdups is devoting the staff time to determine proper charges for the various retail and other entities that make up a lengthy list. This would include contacting other communities to see what their rates are, added Overton, who said that it has been difficult for his short-staffed department to address the time-consuming task.
Board members agreed that modernizing the schedule needs to proceed in a thoughtful, fair manner. “I think it should be done right,” Commissioner Todd Harris said.
“I don’t think it would be right to just double it,” Brown said of the fee schedule.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley thinks the program should pay for itself in terms of charging enough to cover administrative and other costs of the licensing process. But city officials should keep in mind that local businesses also must pay state and other fees to operate, he said.
One change will come on July 1, when the city begins charging Internet sweepstakes businesses — a new category of regulation — $2,500 each to operate. In addition, they will be assessed an annual privilege-license tax of $500 for each electronic gaming machine used or stored as part of their operations.
Contact Tom Joyce at email@example.com or at 719-1924.