City adjusts penalties for business licenses

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Jesef Williams
The city of Lancaster is changing the way it administers penalties for those who are late paying their business-license fees.
City Council voted unanimously during its Tuesday, Aug. 28, meeting to approve a modification to its penalty schedule for the fees. Teresa Meeks, the city’s support services director, explained the recommended changes during Tuesday’s discussion.
Meeks said council’s finance committee met in July to discuss the city’s then-existing system, which assesses a 15-percent penalty on the first day of non-payment, with a 5-percent penalty each month afterward.
The consensus was that the penalties should be reversed to a 5-percent penalty on the first day, with a 15-percent penalty on the first day of each month afterward, Meeks said.
“This should result in a more fair and equitable penalty for businesses that are just a few days late, but will hopefully act as a deterrent for habitual and/or serious offenders,” Meeks said in a memo to council.
Meeks reiterated that belief Tuesday, saying the penalty schedule was restructured to target business owners who routinely pay late.
“It’s going to hit them harder than the folks who are genuinely a few days late,” she said.
“It’s pretty fair,” Councilman Gonzie Mackey said. “It’s good.”
Councilwoman Linda Blackmon-Brace asked if the city has ever taken drastic measures because of a business owner’s negligence to pay the license fee.
“I don’t think we’ve had to stop someone from operating the business,” Meeks said.
In related news, Meeks announced during the meeting that Karen Evans recently passed an examination, on the first try, to become an accredited business license  specialist. Her official title – business license/hospitality specialist – remains the same. She completed three years of training to become accredited.
Evans, who came to the city a few years ago as a summer intern, works full time in the support services department.
Evans was recognized during the meeting.
“She has been wonderful. We couldn’t ask for a better employee,” Meeks said of Evans. “We’re very lucky to have her.”

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Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152