Graves Judge-Executive Jesse Perry says fiscal court’s recent proposal to amend a 1993 ordinance imposing a $10 business licensing fee is intended to protect both county businesses and residents from potentially unfair practices.
Commissioners Tyler Goodman, Richie Galloway and Todd Hayden unanimously approved the amendment on first reading during a fiscal court meeting earlier this month. The court is expected to vote for a second and final time at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the circuit court room at the courthouse.
The 1993 ordinance required Graves businesses to pay a 1 percent payroll tax and the amendment actually does not represent a significant burden on those already complying with the law.
“What fiscal court’s proposal is, is that there would be one amendment to this ordinance so that businesses that operate in Graves County would report on July 1 of each year, basically what they were already doing anyway,” he said. “The ordinance is already in place. But the business would add a $10 fee. We don’t want to add some astronomical fee that would be a burden to folks or to our businesses. That is not what we are looking for.”
Perry pointed out that neither the ordinance nor the amendment includes businesses within the Mayfield city limits.
“They have their own system,” Perry said.
One of the primary reasons for the proposal is to prevent outside contractors from coming into the county “under the radar” without having to meet the requirement, thus protecting residents from potentially unfair practices and local businesses from being undercut by those not obeying the law.
“So this $10 fee would help us, every July 1, to be able to monitor who is doing business in Graves County,” he said. “As of right now, there are 530 slips (bills) that go out each quarter to businesses that participate.”
The proposed fee will also help pay the cost of managing the program.
“Right now, it’s all on an honor system,” he added. “Fiscal court does not have the staff at this point to get out and monitor who is doing business. But this fee, that would be due upon July 1, will help us to do that and we would know more about who was doing business here.”
Perry said the fee would provide a more fair business climate for legal, well-established businesses by protecting them from unfair competition coming into the county that do not pay Workers’ Comp, liability insurance or other state and federal fee requirements.
“There is also a 6 percent sales tax on a lot of services now and when they (unregistered businesses) come in ‘flying under the radar,’ it is not fair to all of our local businesses that meet all the requirements because the competition is able to do it cheaper,” Perry said. “In my opinion, it is not fair to our businesses and their employees, who are working hard every day and trying to make ends meet, to suffer because of that.”
Perry said he and Goodman, Hayden and Galloway want to keep the requirements simple — not impose a “money grab” — or put an unnecessary burden on businesses or those that have valuable services to offer the people of Graves County.
“Yes, the amendment is that there is a $10 fee, but we’re not asking for your tax returns or any of that,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what we are doing, we are trying to make sure that we are all on an equal playing field.”
Perry also noted that registration connected to the fee payment would allow county residents to call the courthouse to verify whether or not a contractor is legally doing business in the county.
Perry used an example from the 2009 ice storm that hit the area.
“There were companies from all over the country that showed up in Graves County to do work,” he said. “I would talk to different residents as I got out to mingle and I was told that people would come in, take half the money up front, and then never finish the job.”
Registration and the fee requirements are intended only to make sure that businesses operating locally are honest, he said.
“It’s only $10, it’s not several hundred dollars. It’s just to show that you are a licensed business and to protect residents and businesses from things like that, that happen,” he said.
Those wanting a copy of the original ordinance and the court’s recent proposal may pick up one at the judge-executive’s office during regularly-scheduled hours Monday through Friday.