HALEYVILLE - A unanimous vote by the Haleyville City Council at their Monday, April 19, meeting reverted the process of issuing and collecting fees for business licenses back to the authority of the city, with the process expected to be complete by June 1.
This means that business owners can once again come to Haleyville City Hall and obtain a business license, have questions
answered by local officials and pay in-person for their license, noted Acting City Clerk Christy Harbin.
The city used a company known as RDS or Revenue Discovery System, which handled business licenses, for years. During that time, if a person wishing to open a new business came to city hall, they were given an application to complete by personnel, but the form had to be forwarded to the outside company.
That company, in turn, contacted the business owner if they needed additional information, sent out invoices to collect payment of business license fees then issued the license, Harbin said.
“The council voted to outsource the business license collection sometime prior to 2015. When we changed to HDL from RDS we had plans to bring the business license back in house in 2019, but because of several retirements and the girls were all new, we felt it would best to let them settle in and learn their positions before making the transition into in house business licensing,” Harbin said.
“Our business owners want to come in city hall and have a license issued here,” said Harbin. “They want to have face-to-face contact with the person they are doing business with. Right now, they can’t.”
The process of obtaining a business license also took longer with an outside company doing the work, city officials said.
The projected June 1 date for the city to begin the process of issuing business licenses will depend on the city being able to have the necessary computer software in place and receive transferred data from HDL, Harbin said.
When the city finds the needed software, the need will be brought back to the council, which will take a vote on the software and its cost, Harbin stated.
The council’s vote April 19, was just to bring back the business license in-house, Harbin added.
Before the business license issuance was removed from city hall, a business owner would come by city hall, receive an application, complete it, pay the fee and the city would immediately issue a business license, Harbin explained.
The issuance of a business license meant that the new business had received a proper inspection by the fire marshal or, in the case of a restaurant, approval by the health inspector, city officials said.
“This is a small town. We basically know all of the business owners, and they feel more comfortable to call us with a question instead of calling Colorado,” said Harbin.
Mayra Espinoza, owner of Haleyville Nutrition, was one of the business owners who faced hardships opening a new business because of an outside company handling the issuance of licenses.
When applying for a license, Espinoza was given a number to call by the city, but from there faced hardships. At first, the company informed her she could not obtain a license unless she had a employer identification number.
“Once I got that, I was dealing with this guy. He was not very helpful. He was acting smart and made me feel dumb, that I didn’t know what I was talking about,” Espinoza pointed out. “I figured it out on my own, finally. I sent in what he needed and finally got my business license, but it took about a month and a half.
“It is stressful because you are starting a new business,” Espinoza said. “I didn’t know when a business license could expire and never got a notice.”
Espinoza, who has also opened nutrition stores in Hartselle and Cullman, said she was able to go through the procedure and receive a business license locally in those areas.
“It’s all done there, and they issue it right away,” she said. “It’s better dealing with face-to-face people, somebody to help you if you have questions right there.”
For fiscal year 2020, 1,209 business licenses were issued for the City of Haleyville, including new licenses and renewals, officials said. This also includes every business in the city limits, the police jurisdiction, Harbin explained.
“We all want our businesses to succeed,” Harbin stressed. “When they thrive, our city is successful. When they have face-to-face contact, it makes it easier to do more business.”
The city plans to send out business license renewal notices the first of November for fiscal year 2022, Harbin said. Business licenses must be renewed by Jan. 31, she said.
“They can come by and pay to get (the license) or we will mail it,” Harbin stated.
Business owners then will come to renew their licenses in person or can come in person to obtain a new license, according to Harbin.
This new collection process is just for business licenses. The city’s occupational, sales and alcohol taxes will continue to be administered through HDL, according to Harbin.
Handling business licenses in-house will also be a savings for the city, she explained.
The city has paid HDL $11,950 annually for business license administration services, according to city officials.
HDL also performed a business license discovery non-compliance service, meaning they looked at businesses inside the city limits that did not have a business license or businesses coming in that make deliveries or do business inside the city limits that did not have a license.
“They would reach out to them and make them understand they needed a license,” said Harbin. “They would collect 50 percent of what they recovered on top of their annual cost.”
The city paid HDL approximately $5,743.72 for the discovery of businesses that did not have a license, for that same year’s period, Harbin figured.
For the period of Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020, a total of $5,153,278.80 was collected, including business licenses sales tax, occupational tax and alcohol tax, according to Harbin.
The city paid HDL a total of $64,962.92, which is 1.26 percent of the city’s total tax revenue, she added.
“When you look at it, that 1.26 percent is not that bad,” Harbin said.
Harbin urged business owners to please be patient during the transition process. The clerk in charge of issuing and renewing business licenses will be Katie Tidwell.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.