What’s in a tax? For one Star Valley councilor determined to take a stand against the government’s many tariffs, change has to start at the local level.
Councilor George Binney said he isn’t against taxes, but believes they should be fair, and that charging businesses for a business license is unfair and drives businesses out of town.
At a May 18 council meeting, Binney asked the council to consider repealing the town’s $50 business license fee, however, despite his earnest attempt, the council decided to keep the fee in place.
Binney, owner of Reliable Plumbing, said as a business owner in Payson and Star Valley, he is required to pay both towns a yearly fee to keep his business licenses. When Payson raised its business license fees in July 2009, he started questioning the need for the tax.
For out-of-town business owners, Payson’s renewal fee went from $40 to $70 while first-time licenses went from $60 to $90.
Tessie Flores, Payson’s deputy town clerk, said the town’s business license fees had remained the same for 10 years when the council decided to raise them in 2009.
In Star Valley, it costs $50 for an annual license.
Towns typically require a business license to ensure sales tax revenues are reported, to prevent fraud and to provide a database of commercial activities.
Star Valley Town Clerk Stephanie Jones said the majority of the town’s fee covers processing, including staff time.
Binney asked Jones if it really costs $50 to process a license and she said yes.
Despite this, Binney said the town should be business-friendly and “set an example” by lowering or eliminating the fee.
“The government drives businesses out,” he said, with taxes and regulations.
Binney suggested that if the town did not want to eliminate the tax, at least lower it.
Councilor Barbara Hartwell said a business license is a small price to pay to keep businesses honest and “keep the businesses we want in while keeping the businesses we don’t want out.”
“If we didn’t do this, we would be letting in a lot of undesirables,” she said.
Binney said businesses bring in sales tax, which benefits the town.
“Businesses are doing the town a favor,” he said.
Councilor Del Newland said he renews his business license every year and thinks the tax is a good idea.
“If you don’t have it, you don’t have control,” he said.
Councilor Vern Leis said there are many things people don’t like about government, but he would rather live in Star Valley and the U.S. than anywhere else.
Besides, $50 is a minimal fee in today’s world, he said. When Mayor Bill Rappaport asked for possible action on the issue, no one made a motion and the council went on to other business.
In other news, the council gave the go-ahead to collaborate with Payson for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) beginning in 2011.
The partnership would give each town roughly $280,000 in federal community development money to use over two years.
In the past, Payson worked with Apache Junction for the funding. This year, Payson contacted Star Valley Town Clerk Stephanie Jones with the possibility of collaborating in 2011.
If approved by Payson’s council, Star Valley would apply for Payson and Star Valley’s CDBG funds in 2011, roughly $280,000. Then in 2012, Payson would prepare the CDBG application and receive Star Valley and Payson’s funds. The process would then repeat itself.
Star Valley Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier said the agreement gives each town more money to use on larger projects and reduces administrative costs.
Grier assured the council that the process for using CDBG funds would remain the same. Last year, Star Valley received $140,000 in CDBG funds and decided to install a water crossing. This year, the town hopes to use CDBG funds to improve town infrastructure, including adding a wheelchair lift at town hall and adding fire hydrants around town.