Monroe County Commissioners took a first step on Tuesday, June 18 in requiring county business licenses.

County manager Jim Hedges with assistance from Susan Landfried and Sara Dusenberry of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission (MGRC) gave a proposal to commissioners on ways to establish a business license program. Hedges said the purpose of requiring business licenses is to provide a database of businesses and employee contacts to be used for public safety emergencies and also to provide information in order for county leaders to understand the local business landscape and economic development.

Licenses would only be required for businesses that operate in the county, not in Forsyth and Culloden, which have their own requirements. Companies requiring licenses include: sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships and non-profits (excluding non-profits that use 50 percent of proceeds for charity).

Businesses excluded from license requirements include: state or federally-exempted businesses, businesses regulated by the Georgia Public Service Commission (electric, natural gas, telecommunications), Electrical Service businesses (EMCs and municipalities), farming operations not engaged in agribusiness, cooperative marketing associations, insurance companies, motor common carriers, businesses that purchase carload lots of guano, meats, meal, flour, bran, cottonseed meal and hulls, depository financial institutions (banks, credit unions, etc.), facilities operated by a charitable trust and practitioners exclusively employed by a government agency. Other exemptions include: a young adolescent that is cutting grass for the summer, babysitters, a citizen that bakes occasionally for parties and a citizen that makes crafts occasionally for events.

Hedges proposed that business licenses be paid on or before Jan. 1 each year. If not paid by March 1, the business would be subject to delinquent penalties, which would be 100 percent of the amount of the initial unpaid fee. Any business starting after July 1 in any calendar year would only pay 50 percent of the fee. A one-time administrative fee would also be charged for initial start-up or re-opening of an account.

Hedges and MGRC representatives evaluated nearby municipalities who require business licenses, including the City of Forsyth, Jasper County, Houston County, Macon-Bibb County, Jones County, Crawford County and Morgan County. Fee structures vary amongst these governments with some having flat fees and others utilizing graduated fees. For example, the City of Forsyth requires an administrative fee of $20. Its business license fees then increase based upon the number of employees working at a business. For companies with one to three employees, the cost is $50, four to 10 employees is $75, 11 to 20 employees is $150, 21 to 50 employees is $250 and 51 or more is $300.

Instead of proposing to use Forsyth’s graduated model, Hedges recommended commissioners opt for a flat fee structure similar to that of Jones County, which requires an initial registration fee of $175 and an annual license fee of $125. Chairman Greg Tapley then tasked the MGRC with finding out how many business licenses have been issued in nearby municipalities to determine approximately how much additional revenue Monroe County would stand to gain by requiring them.

Hedges proposed that, if approved, the business license ordinance would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020 with the county spending the rest of 2019 notifying the public of the change and setting up the parameters.

District 3 commissioner John Ambrose said he thinks businesses based in other counties or states who do business in Monroe County should be required to buy a Monroe County business license as well. Blount Road resident Don Daniel, who complimented commissioners’ efforts to establish business licenses, said he agreed with Ambrose, saying he rejected a recent attempt by a transient paving company to pave his driveway because it didn’t have a business license.

Maynards Mill Road resident Fred Dungan questioned what kind of enforcement policies commissioners would put in place should business licenses be required.