By Natalie M. Zeigler
Hartsville City Council has addressed several issues recently with easy-to-see results, like its decision last week to fund new restroom facilities for Pride Park and Burry Park, or its approvals of bid awards a few months back for everything from demolitions of blighted homes inside City limits to upcoming repairs for the Hartsville Veterans Memorial.
Other times, the actions of Council are not as obviously visible, but still important nonetheless, like the final approval on Jan. 12 of an ordinance which revamped the City’s procedures for business licenses. This action moved the due date for a business to apply for its annual license, giving it more time to calculate finances for the previous year. Classifications for business licenses have also changed in a way which will more accurately tie the classes and rates to a business’ expected profitability.
Business licenses are a big deal for the City of Hartsville. Nearly 1,400 businesses are licensed for commerce here, and the fees for these represent approximately 19 percent of the City’s $9.2 million General Fund revenue, covering a major part of our Fire Department’s and Police Department’s operations, as well as our Parks & Recreation and Streets & Grounds operations, among other things. How the revenue is collected is just as important, of course, since it directly impacts the lifeblood of our community. We want to be mindful of business owners’ needs when obtaining and renewing their licenses, and we want to use best practices when determining business classifications, ensuring that what companies see from us is in line with the licensing in other cities where they are doing business.
The new due date comes as the most obvious change for businesses. The former due date, Jan. 31, gave businesses a very limited amount of time to compile their records and determine their earnings for the calendar year which ended four weeks earlier. That deadline has moved to April 30 to better coincide with income tax deadlines. The business license renewal forms, which in years past have gone out earlier than now, will be sent out to businesses by early February this year.
In the second major change, the City has adopted the North American Industry Classification System, the federal standard for categorizing all forms of businesses – retail, manufacturing, health care, finance, agriculture, everything – and will set fee amounts accordingly. Going forward, the City will update these classifications annually, so that rises and falls in a business’ revenue year-over-year will be better reflected in the amount they pay for a business license.
In so much that we do, we push the message that we want businesses to come and to stay in Hartsville. This is why we have everything in place from a group promoting and encouraging every form of downtown development and promotion, Main Street Hartsville, and the Duke Energy Center for Innovation seeking technology-focused startups to establish themselves locally. Other times, a business-friendly stance requires attention to the less spectacular details, like an improved licensing process, to make sure we are engaging with those who power the engine of our local economy to the best of our ability.
Natalie Zeigler is the City Manager of Hartsville. For more information, call City Hall at 843-383-3015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.