Business licenses not the answer
We can think of a lot of good reasons for Douglas County to have a business license ordinance, but raising $600,000 a year is not one of them.
Douglas is one of the few counties in the nation not to require businesses to obtain a license. The county does something similar with its fictitious name registration. By registering a fictitious name, the county has a list of businesses in the county and their proprietors. For all intents and purposes it is a business license.
Under a plan proposed to the county by staff, all firms would pay the same flat rate for the privilege of doing business here. It is one of three ways county staff has come up with to make up a shortfall in the county coffers.
The other two are a utility franchise fee and a 911 communications fee, both of which would appear on everyone’s utility bills.
Tax revenues are down for a lot of reasons. Slowed housing construction has affected both property and sales taxes. Competition from Indian casinos in California has left gaming taxes flat.
Anyone who thinks that personnel costs are going to decrease without layoffs is living in a fantasy land. Workers, whether in the private or public sector, cost more than they did five years ago. Health insurance for those employees is growing at a rate faster than wages.
So what do we do?
No answer will make everyone happy and most answers will make a lot of people very angry. We oppose a business license ordinance to raise money, but we’re a business. Consumers should oppose increased utility and phone taxes. Representatives of county employees will oppose layoffs. Taxpayers oppose higher taxes.
The only answer is to find a way to cut expenses that shows taxpayers the county is serious about balancing the budget.