Council eyes fee for county businesses

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County leaders say that a proposed business registration fee is about getting a more accurate count of businesses operating in the unincorporated areas of Fairfield County.

“It’s not based on the revenue of the business. It’s not based upon the sales, income or number of employees, whether you have one employee or 5,000 employees,” county attorney Tommy Morgan said during an Administration and Finance Committee meeting Monday.

“Now you know what businesses are doing what in the unincorporated parts of the county,” he said.

Later, council members voted 5-0 for first reading by title only of the business registration fee. Council members Mikel Trapp and Bertha Goins were absent.

Two more readings are required for passage.

The proposal was among several fees the county is considering. Unlike the others, which consist of various sales taxes or fees, the business registration fee would institute a flat $15 fee per business.

“It’s not a business license fee, it’s a business registration fee,” Morgan said, noting business licenses have more administrative requirements and usually more costly than registration fees.

Council members voiced support for the business fee.

Councilman Douglas Pauley said the fee would help the county to eliminate blight. He also proposed charging transient businesses, such as food trucks, a higher fee as a means of promoting local businesses.

“It is not about making money,” Pauley said. “This information can greatly help us market ourselves, market our businesses and can also come into consideration for grants and other opportunities for assistance,” Pauley said.

Council chairman Neil Robinson agreed.

“It’s definitely a regulation that we need,” Robinson said. “We don’t have a count of businesses that we have [operating] now. It would help with the clean up of blight. Blight is a big issue in this county.”

Two members of the public addressed the fee during public input, each expressing opposing viewpoints.

Jeff Schaffer thought the fee should be a referendum decided by voters.

“Whose bright idea was it to have this ordinance put on the books and have the taxpayers implement this. Who thought of this?” Schaffer asked. “Why is this so damned important to get this on the books? Ultimately where will this lead us?”

Randy Bright of Ridgeway backed the fee, but cautioned council members not to exceed $15.

“Blight is holding us back. Blight is holding us back from getting new residents and new industry. Let’s make a good first impression and move forward,” Bright said. “Let’s make this a prudent investment, not a blind investment. The $15 is no big deal.”

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