County officials give lots of reasons for a business tax. I asked my friend Frank the Farmer if he knew what was really driving it.
"Charity!" Frank exploded. "The fee and regulation are charity. The license itself, the application process, record keeping forced on businesses, and the arrogance of what Lisa Granahan calls 'stiff penalties' for even innocent non-compliance. Imagine, a charity for county employees, mandated by county employees, with the force of law backed up by the district attorney and court system who are also county employees and stakeholders in the fee income. The timing is designed to provide employment for employees who otherwise could get laid off."
"Socialism is another word. Do businesses get any service for their fee?" I asked.
"None. Zero. Well, they get inspected and maybe fined by bureaucrats knowing nothing about business. The fire chief claims he'll save us from dangerous neighbors. Would you call those services?" Frank asked tongue in cheek.
"Mom and pop enterprises would keep records they never kept before. Instead of running their business. The fee would be calculated on equivalent full-time employees they call FTEs. I'd have to track daily hours worked including my own and my wife's, divide that by a factor like eight hours to determine how many employees we have."
I thought for a moment. "When you attend a commission meeting or chamber of commerce meeting or a business lunch, or take a client skiing or golfing, are you working?"
"Who knows?" Frank growled. "Does anybody in county offices know enough about how a business operates to even ask that?"
"That's why I call it a charity for county employees. Heck, according to county officials they themselves can't even estimate how many work-hours and FTEs it takes receiving applications, issuing a paper license, collecting and scrutinizing monthly reports, entering fees in the computer, and - here's the real kicker - auditing your business, by bureaucrats, by fire officials, even the sheriff could get in on the act. That little piece of paper is government's license to be the arbiters of whether we deserve to be in business or not. Out goes a business advantage we had over other counties. And a little less donation money for real charities."
I laughed ruefully.
"Seems to me if you have to determine FTEs, so should they. The good news is, candidates for county commission this year can use the topic in debates. Lynn Hettrick as spokesman for the Coalition for Smart Growth already trumpeted the need for more county bureaucracy. Their candidates will have to support it. An ordinance this year can be repealed next year."
Jack Van Dien
Real bad time
for business tax
Can you imagine a worse time for Douglas County to propose an annual business license fee on every business in the county? County Manager Dan Holler's justification for proposing the new tax is that the county needs more money to make up for declining tax revenues due to the housing market collapse and its negative impact on the economy.
Both large and small businesses are being hurt by the current economic downturn. They shouldn't be made to pay a new tax to bail out the county when consumer spending is declining.
Thanks in part to the big retailers in the north end of the county (many of which got county tax breaks to locate here), too many Valley stores have had to close their doors. If county commissioners approve the proposed new business tax, which is due to come before the commission this month, it could push smaller, more vulnerable businesses over the edge.
The county says it doesn't know how much the new tax would raise, but estimates $600,000 to $800,000 - not for anything specific, like a senior center, but to help cover general fund expenditures.
The amount a business would pay annually would start with a $25 application fee, then increase depending on the number of hours its employees work in a year.
According to the graduated fee schedule published in this newspaper Feb. 29, a person running a business out of his or her home would pay $50. A business with 10 fulltime employees would pay $125; the top fee would be $1,550 for 1,000 or more fulltime employees.
Holler's assistant, Lisa Granahan, was quoted as saying these fees would be "fair and equitable;" but a 10-employee business would pay $12.50 for each employee, while a business with 1,000 employees would pay $1.55 per employee. That seems neither fair nor equitable.
The county would compute a business's fee by totalling the number of hours its employees work per year and dividing the sum by 2,080 (which is the number of hours a 40-hour-per-week employee works in 52 weeks). The quotient would be the number of "fulltime" employees in a year, which would determine the appropriate fee. But no employer can predict how many hours his or her employees are going to work in a year. Would the county require a business to reveal its payroll records to establish how many "fulltime" employees it had in a year? To get such privileged information, the county would probably have to hire a couple more employees (at $50,000 each); but what if a business refused to give it? Would the county take it to court?
Another reason the county gives for business licenses is that every business would be required to identify what it does, thereby helping police and firemen know what dangers to expect in an emergency on the premises. That's reasonable enough; but the same thing be done at far less cost by enacting a one-time fee of, say, $25 for a license stating the nature of its business, and making the information available on a computer in an emergency?
Would the county rescind its proposed business fee ordinance when the economy improves (as it surely will) and county tax income goes back up? The county doesn't say, but you can bet it wouldn't.
In summation, the county manager and county commissioners should forget the idea of a business license fee while the county's economy is in the doldrums. Businesses tighten their belts in hard times; so, too, should the county.
Always a mother
This was a Sunday that I will never forget. I saw the front page of the paper that read the autopsy confirmed Breanna Denison's body in a newspaper rack. My body started to shake and I started to cry uncontrollably. I came home and all I wanted from my husband was a hug.
He had known since Friday, but didn't have the heart to tell me because I had prayed for her safe return ever since she went missing. Coincidently, my 21-year-old daughter had been gone since Friday night, so I decided to call her best friend to see how she was doing. Her girlfriend said that she hadn't seen her all weekend and had some bad news that she didn't want to tell me.
My daughter had met a man from Las Vegas and they spent the weekend in Reno together. My mind went to the worst place and I called her in as a missing person.
As I was getting her current photos and waiting for the police, I put myself in Breanna Denison's parents shoes, the fear, the unknown, praying to God for her safety. Then I called her cell phone and I told her that I called her in as a missing person, and that I wasn't mad I just wanted to hear her voice and know that she was OK. Within the longest 10 minutes of my life she called and apologized for scaring me like she did.
Our children are our gifts, but they belong to God. We need to give our children the tools to be street safe in the world because my daughter is very booksmart, but is too trusting of others.
My heart goes out to all of the family, friends, volunteers, and countless others that worked so hard for Breanna's safe return. She is home and at peace now, but she will be truly be missed for all the lives she touched. She touched mine and I didn't even know her.
I wear a bracelet called forgetmenot which is an organization that helps families when their children are missing. The web site is www.find-missing-children.org working with the police and the FBI through public donations this organization operates 24/7 for families. Go to the Web site the statistics are frightening, and no one is immune from these predators.
God bless you and your families.
Sustainability means balance
In your Feb. 29 report on the Douglas Today Forecast you quote Rob Wigton as saying "If a community is not growing, it is dying." The obvious fault in this argument is that a community cannot grow forever. It eventually will run out of room and resources. So when we grow until we can't anymore, then what? Die and leave future generations with the mess?
Sustainability is what defines a healthy community, not growth. By sustainability I mean finding that happy balance between the resources we have (water and land, air quality) and the number of people it supports. It's the balance between having the jobs, housing, infrastructure, businesses and services to support the needs of the community, and having enough community to support the businesses, buy the houses, fill the jobs with workers with the needed skills, and to use and support the services. It means being able to support the community that lives here without overburdening the environment with more than it can recover from.
It means we have to adapt as things change. At different times that may mean growing in some areas and backing off or redirecting efforts in others. When the economy, job needs, infrastructure needs, or service needs change, we may have to change habits, re-train for jobs, abandon old businesses and services for which there isn't enough demand and start new ones for which there is. A better saying might be, "If a community is not adapting, it is dying."
If you are interested in learning about a multitude of ways we can live, work, and play more sustainably, on a personal and community level, mark your calendar and come to the second annual Sustainable Living and Renewable Energy Roundup at Lampe Park on Sept. 13-14.
We the Leis family, would like to thank you for your kind expression of sympathy on our loss of Robert Leis Jr.
Our family deeply appreciates all those who sent flowers or a sympathy card, made donations to the trust fund, called with the kindest words and kept us in your thoughts and prayers.
Love all whom you hold dear
Precious is the time you share
Do not wait for tomorrow
For tomorrow may not be...
Your thoughts and efforts were greatly appreciated by the family of Robert Leis Jr. Thank you for everything.
There are so many things about Carson Valley that instill and promote the wonderful qualities of belonging to a community. There are people who quietly reach out and help those in need in their darkest hours and create the heart and soul of our community. It is because of this selfless giving that I would like to thank this community for their donations and support to Kris Leis and her family during this difficult time in their lives.