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Will Colorado Springs business licensing fees go away? Council member working on it

June 12, 2014 Updated: June 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Colorado Springs City Council member Helen Collins is proposing eliminating fees on most city licenses as a way to attract more small businesses to the area, but it's likely to draw a veto from Mayor Steve Bach, with little chance of an override.

The proposal, which is included in a series of ordinances Collins discussed with council members this week, would not eliminate the licensing requirements for businesses but would end fees ranging from $15 to $515. Fees would remain for liquor licenses and permits of all types, as well as those paid to the city by medical marijuana dispensaries.

"I am trying to make the city more business-friendly," Collins said. "Hopefully, this will bring more business to Colorado Springs, which should increase our tax revenue. We will not be eliminating the requirement for licenses, just the fees for those licenses."

Collins had proposed in her initial draft of the ordinance to eliminate licensing fees except those involving alcohol or medical marijuana sales, but agreed to keep fees for escort services and sexually oriented businesses at the request of council member Don Knight. She hopes to have the ordinances ready for an initial vote at the council's meeting June 24 with a final vote likely July 8. The ordinances would take effect July 31.

Steve Cox, chief of staff for Bach, said the mayor would veto the ordinances "in their current form, based on the loss of revenue, given our current budget challenges."

"We like the concept, and it would be great not to have the fees, but the revenue loss is problematic," Cox said.

The Clerk's Office took in $384,700 last year and $156,538 in the first four months of this year from licensing fees.

The Clerk's Office is reviewing city licensing fees, with a report scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30.

Cox said Bach would like to see the results of the review before eliminating any fees.

Council President Keith King appears to be on board with Collins' effort. He said the loss of $400,000 to the city's coffers from the licenses would be worth the price of creating a more business-friendly culture.

"It's a win-win for the consumer," King said. "I think we will create more business. This is a business-friendly ordinance that will grow business and stimulate the economy."

Council member Jan Martin said she opposes the proposed ordinances because they would shift the cost of licensing businesses from the license holders to city taxpayers, since the city's licensing requirements would remain unchanged.

"It's not that we don't want to be more business friendly, but somebody has to bear the cost of the licensing program. It makes sense for those with licenses to bear that cost," said Martin, who expects the ordinances to pass on a 5-4 vote - not enough to override a veto. "We should let the clerk finish her study and come back with a recommendation."

Robin Roberts, president of Pikes Peak National Bank and author of a small business blog called "Saturday Business Magazine," thanks Collins on her Facebook page for bringing the issue to the council and prompting the clerk's license fee review.

But she said in an interview that waiting for the review to be completed "would be prudent."

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