By Ed Brock
The city of Lovejoy will spread an increase in its occupation tax rates over the next two years, but at least one business owner says the rates are still too high.
At the council's Jan. 27 meeting several business owners came to complain about the increase that saw some rates for the occupation tax, also known as a business license, go from under $100 to more than $4,000 in one case. Some of the same business owners attended Tuesday night's meeting and were not happy with the decision to implement the full increase next year.
"We've asked them to go back and review it," said Ellis Conkle, owner of Conkle's Tree Service. "Even the mayor admitted he didn't know it would be that high."
Conkle said previously that his rate had been $70 for the seven years he's been in the city and went up to $2,525 this year. Now he will pay about $1,250 this year and the full amount next year, Conkle said.
In another case, C&J Carriers owner Ray Jones said his license went from $75 to over $4,000.
Jones and Conkle said the increase is unwarranted because the city does not offer any services. City Attorney Greg Hecht told them during the Jan. 27 meeting that the city had compared their rates to other cities and switched to a system that is more commonly used that is based on the gross receipts of a company.
But that is still not fair, Conkle said.
"(Gross receipts) don't mean we made that much profit," Conkle said.
City Councilman Arlie Auckerman said that, with Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy and Hecht's blessing, he had talked to Conkle and Jones and Lovejoy taxidermist Matt Thompson about the occupation tax rates in order to find a compromise. He came to Tuesday's meeting prepared to propose spreading the increase over three years, but in a work session before the council meeting Councilman Bobby Cartwright said he had talked to around 20 business owners and determined that the two-year plan would be acceptable.
During the meeting, Auckerman's motion died for lack of a second and then the council voted unanimously to approve Cartwright's proposal.
"So to make it unanimous and to avoid strife I made it unanimous," Auckerman said.
Murphy did not return repeated phone calls for comment on the meeting.
Conkle said some members of the community are still looking into organizing a recall of the city's elected officials.