Board expresses reservations to business license fee
Supervisors question compliance
The imposition of a business license fee in the unincorporated areas of Tulare County got less than a warm reception from members of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Led by Supervisor Steven Worthley, who questioned how the county would get businesses to comply, other board members stated they had reservations about the program and directed staff to do a lot of outreach with business owners in the county and residents to get their input. No member of the public spoke during Tuesday’s discussion.
John Hess, community development specialist with the county, explained the purpose of the business license would be to establish a database of businesses in the county that could be used by the fire department and law enforcement to determine any public safety risks.
The proposed fee is $50 annually, and Hess said as many as 2,500 businesses could be affected.
Tulare County Fire Chief Joe Garcia said the information the license would provide may have prevented a major fire in the Terra Bella area late last year.
“The intent is to create a true database. Right now, I don’t have a true database.”
He said the business in Terra Bella that suffered a $12 million fire in November was not in compliance with building codes and had the fire department been aware of the business, it could have required necessary improvements, such as fire sprinklers, that could have prevented the fire from doing so much damage.
“All because he [the owner] did not notify anybody of what was going on there,” said Garcia.
Garcia stressed the business license is not intended to raise revenue for the county, but simply to provide the database. Tulare County Chief Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau said the fee will barely cover the cost of the program.
“It is a program that is beneficial and necessary,” said Garcia.
Some businesses in the county are already required to get a business license, such as adult entertainment establishments and mobile food vendors, but the majority are not required. Hess said about half of the counties in the state do require business licenses, but many do not. Businesses in cities are required to obtain a business license. Hess said the average cost for a business license in other counties is $150 annually.
He stressed the requirement would not add any new restrictions or regulations on existing businesses, but there will be a fine for those not obtaining a license.
Worthley was most vocal in his opposition.
“How do we get people to comply,” he said, pointing out that only two of the dozens of mobile vendors in the county have gotten a business license. “I would say that’s not very successful.”
He said the county has other means to collect information for a database without imposing the business license fee.
Board Chairman Pete Vander Poel questioned the cost involved and estimated it could cost a lot more than what the fee would bring in. He also strongly encouraged the public outreach before reaching a decision.
Rousseau agreed the county has not done a good job of getting mobile vendors to comply, but he reiterated, “This will help them [firefighters] to better provide protection and for businesses to better protect themselves.”
If approved, the fee would go into effect July 1.
In other business:
- Approved the purchase of 24 new vehicles for the sheriff’s department.
- Rescinded the sale of another piece of property because of a mix up in the Tax Assessor’s Office. Last month a similar action was taken on a piece of property owned by the city of Porterville and wrongfully sold.
- Set meeting dates and locations for board meetings to be held in each supervisorial district, beginning March 12 in Famersville, which is in Allen Ishida’s district. The meeting in Mike Ennis’ Fifth District will be Nov. 12 at Porterville City Hall. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m. Rousseau said of the Porterville meeting, “That should be an interesting meeting.”