Number of businesses in Douglas a mystery |

Number of businesses in Douglas a mystery

by Scott Neuffer

Meetings held this week in Minden and Lake Tahoe about a proposed Douglas County business license tax have sparked debate between the business community and county officials, generating questions about exactly how many businesses operate in Douglas County, and how much revenue a business license tax could generate.

“Based on fictitious business names filed with the county and property assessment reports, a ball park estimate would be 1,200 to 1,500 businesses in Douglas County,” said Douglas County Clerk-treasurer Barbara Griffin. “But we may be surprised.”

Jenney Sartin, executive director of Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks the number may indeed be higher.

“We’re not sure, to be perfectly blunt. A lot of businesses are run from home and don’t file fictitious names with the county,” she said.

Sartin said the chamber has 565 businesses in its membership.

“We haven’t formed an opinion yet whether we’re for it or against it,” she said. “I want to make sure businesses in Carson Valley are represented and protected, and that a license fee wouldn’t be substantially damaging to them.”

Both Sartin and Griffin were part of a development work group that staged the public meetings to gather input from business leaders and formulate a proposal for county commissioners to review early next year.

Thus far, the group is proposing a business license tax to be renewed annually at a cost of $100, plus additional fees dependent on the number of employees a business has. They suggested a starting fee of $15 for one to three employees, ranging up to $1,500 for 1,000 or more employees.

Without knowing the exact number of businesses in the county, the group still estimated the proposed tax could generate $600,000 to $800,000 annually for Douglas County’s general fund.

Sartin said she is conducting a survey among her members to see how many businesses are in favor of the tax and, if so, how many prefer the proposed structure or a different structure. She said she’ll release the results when the proposal gets closer to completion.

Reactions to the proposal have been mixed, with ranchers like Nate Leising opposed to any fee, and business leaders like Robb Hellwinkel in favor of a flat fee rather than a sliding scale.

“The fee should be as simple as possible,” Hellwinkel said.

For more information about the proposed business license tax, call the Douglas County Manager’s Office at 782-9821.