Open Letter

Just in case you haven’t heard, don’t understand, or don’t care about business license fees, the two Bills at the State House will affect you. If H3650 and H3651 bills pass as last amended, you as a small business owner or a resident could see drastic changes. Why? Because some at the State House want to get involved and give exemptions to some businesses that have deep pockets and large lobbying groups to support them. The small businesses with no voice at the State House, such as, yes, my business, get to pay higher fees to cover the others’ reduction in fees. Sounds fair, right?

Option One would be to bring back property tax on all properties in Irmo to make up the loss, so you as residents, will pay so large businesses can get a reduction in their fee, and insurance companies can pay nothing at all. Again, sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Option Two would be not to go up on the fee on the remaining businesses, nor bring back property tax, but cut $300,000-$500,000 out of our Town budget. The only way we can do that is with cutting positions, people’s jobs. And most likely, being a small Town with limited staff in the first place that could mean police officers. Your safety at risk so a few select businesses (insurance companies will get 100 percent reduction), and other large-chain multi-location type businesses will get a 25 percent reduction. Sounds good, right?

If we had to eliminate positions at the police department in order to make ends meet, one possibility so that it would not affect the safety of our residents would be to concentrate our limited police force on patrolling our residential neighborhoods. If we were to scale back patrolling the local businesses and stop responding to alarm calls during the night hours and if we were to stop responding and working automobile accidents on major US or State Highways and let SC Highway Patrol respond and work these calls, then we may be able to limit some of the need for the current number of officers we have on the street and concentrate those in our residential areas. This may work good for the safety of our residents, but I’m sure the businesses, small and large, would not want automobile accidents sitting in front of their business for 4-6 hours waiting for it to be cleared. Nor would they want those alarms at night not answered at all, but they could provide their own security and pay them to respond.

As you know SCDOT is not fully funded, you can also probably take it for granted, the SC Highway Patrol is not up to full staff either. Nor has the State fully funded the local government fund since 2012. To date, it has cost the Town approximately $350,000. This year we anticipate $100,000 loss which we will be addressing this month at our budget workshops on what expenses we may cut in order to offset that revenue loss. These are different issues and different letters.

The two Bills started out addressing the need to standardize the business license application form, classes of service, and streamlining the payment process. Make it where the same form is used and the business is in the same class of service city to city. The Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) was working with the South Carolina Chamber and SC Manufacturers Association to accomplish all this, in fact, for the past two years. Then some decided to hijack (my words) that work, make changes (winners, by default losers), add some exemptions for their, uhhhmmm, friends, and friends’ businesses (i.e. child care facilities, insurance companies, multi-location businesses, manufacturers, etc. etc.). So far, so good, right? Well, unless you are just a small business, with no voice at the State House, or just a resident that may have to pick up the tab. If you are okay with all this, fine, or have you had enough?

These Bills need to die, the parties need to go back to the table, work on the standardization and streamlining, and let all the payments be made to MASC, which is the municipalities’ representative body. They’re setting up the online portal to do so, and are presently doing it for all MASC member municipalities in regards to insurance business license payments.

Call your local state house representatives, voice your oppositions to these two bills and any like bills of this nature that is not supported by the municipalities. If you are a small business, call your local Chamber of Commerce and let them know that you don’t want to pay more, so somebody else can pay less. You may not as a small business have a voice at the State House, but you do have a voice at your Chamber, it’s called dues.

I will be putting more facts and figures and contact information on my website at HardyKing.com for your convenience.

Sincerely,

Hardy King

Mayor of Irmo and

Small Business Owner