11 Elgin businesses to face fines for not paying for license
Three years into its business license program, the City of Elgin took its first official steps Wednesday to hold business owners liable for not buying licenses.
The 39 business owners who still had not paid the license fees in 2011 or 2012 received letters in July saying they should make the late payments or show up for an administrative adjudication hearing Wednesday morning. The vast majority paid before the court date with a few showing up at city hall.
Chetan Patel, owner of three Elgin Subways showed up with the letter from the city hoping to straighten out the situation. Patel said he paid for one of his businesses but apparently hadn't paid the other two — a misunderstanding, not a protest of the license program.
"Whatever I have to do I'll do it," Patel said.
Patel paid his overdue fees and left city hall without any extra fines, his businesses back in compliance.
The local political group Elgin OCTAVE (Operant Conditioning to Achieve Voter Expectations), has worked to abolish the Elgin business license since April 2011, speaking out against the fees, which range from $35 to $595 a year, at various city council meetings.
The city council implemented the business license program in 2010 to generate revenue for economic development work and produce an accurate database of businesses operating in the city. License fee amounts vary by square footage of the business and are not charged to nonprofits or government entities, though those groups are supposed to get a license, too.
Suzanne Jurs, co-owner of Dancer's Paradise, was one of 11 business owners who did not show up for the hearing Wednesday. She said she forgot about it but does plan to pay the business license fee, albeit grudgingly.
"I think it's ridiculous, that's why I haven't done it," Jurs said. "It's just one more way for the city to get money from you."
Business owners like Jurs who did not show up Wednesday were found automatically liable, but if they pay the last two years of license fees by Sept. 1, will face just a $50 fine. Otherwise the fine alone will amount to $50 plus the two-year license costs.
Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said he was pleased with the response to the first adjudication date as most business owners came into compliance — the goal of scheduling the hearings. Kozal said the city has taken extraordinary measures to get businesses to pay the license fees without stricter action, largely because there was confusion as to whether the city council would continue the program.
The council reaffirmed its support of the program in January, directing the staff to start enforcement measures. The second group of noncompliant business owners will be called to administrative adjudication in September. About 130 businesses, including those that have never been licensed, are still on the list for court action.
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