City spruces up business license law

"Despite the objections of a city councilman, Oak Harbor has an updated business license ordinance complete with a new set of penalties for violations.At the City Council meeting Tuesday night, the members unanimously passed the updated ordinance written by City Attorney Phil Bleyhl. Councilmen Paul Brewer and Rex Hankins were absent.Councilman Richard Davis objected to what he called “a silly, jerky $50 fee” that businesses must pay for a city business license.“The tax is one I’ve objected to for a long time,” he said. “It’s basically a penalty for doing business in the city.”The ordinance which Davis and the four other council members eventually passed corrects problems with the current business license ordinance and adds a few changes. Bleyhl said the update restores the misdemeanor penalty provision, adopts an infraction penalty and makes it clear that businesses must post the city business license in a public area.Under the updated ordinance, it’s a misdemeanor crime to do business in the city without a license, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Violating the code is also a civil infraction, with a penalty of $250 for each offense, where each separate day in business without a license is a separate offense.The license fees are based on the size and type of business. Class 1 businesses — which are those that serve alcohol, supermarkets and businesses that employee over 49 people — must pay $100. Class 2 businesses — which include professional businesses and banks — must pay $50. Class 3 businesses — which include retail deliveries and contractors — pay $25.In defense of the ordinance, Interim City Supervisor Doug Merriman said that requiring business licenses is the only way the city can track the number of businesses operating within city limits.Over the last eight months, Merriman has been able to compare the city’s list of businesses with information from the Department of Revenue. Through the comparison, he’s been able to find businesses that aren’t reporting sales tax but should, and also businesses that report sales tax but don’t have city licenses.Merriman said the city collects about $50,000 a year from businesses through the license ordinance, which only covers the cost of collection and tracking."

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