Jack Courtmeyer, owner of Purely H20, keeps a collection of notepads in his store listing the names of dozens of local businesses that he believes have not paid their business licence fee.
He started collecting these names in 2013, the same year when he decided to stop paying for his own annual business licence fee. He now owes the village $420.
And he’s not alone. Wayne Brown, owner of Process 4 circle arts Gallery, last paid his business licence fee in 2012, and currently owes the village $520.
Both businesses have received numerous reminders from the village. Last week, Burns Lake council discussed whether the municipality should start a collection process through a civil tribunal system that handles claims under $5000.
“The village is losing out on revenue as well as staff time spent on collections,” explained Rob Krause, director of protective services. “The situation is unfair to those businesses that are paying their fees, and has the potential to discourage other from paying.”
A business licence for the period of Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 costs $110. A seasonal business licence for six months costs $55. A temporary vendor permit (21 calendar days) costs $25.
Krause added that the village is unaware of any other businesses not paying their licence fees.
“To the best of our knowledge, any time we are made aware of a business operating without a business licence, we issue them a letter and we go after them,” he said.
Lakes District News spoke with both business owners last week.
Courtmeyer said he suspects that many companies do not pay for licences because they are temporary businesses. However, he said he can’t know for sure.
“I’d love for the village to prove that these businesses have business licences,” he said. “If you can’t apply the rules to all of these companies, then forget it.”
Brown, on the other hand, said he refuses to pay the annual fee because he believes the village “subsidizes” a municipal building to the Lakes Artisan Cooperative, a non-profit society that provides support for local artists and other community organizations. The village has been renting a building to the cooperative since 2010, charging $500 per month – which includes utilities and snow removal.
Brown said he feels that the cooperative shouldn’t be paying only $500 a month, adding that all businesses in town deserve equal opportunities.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “They are subsidizing a business in competition with all the other businesses, not just my business; so I just took a stand against it.”
Instead of opting to begin a collection procedure, council decided to invite both business owners to a council meeting so that they can express their points of view. Although Brown said he would be happy to speak with council, Courtmeyer said he wouldn’t, adding that he would be rather discuss this matter in front of a judge.
A village staff report says Purely H20 has been encouraging other businesses not to pay their licence fee. This has lead to a complaint being filed by another business owner to the village in regards to this matter. Courtmeyer told Lakes District News that he has not been encouraging other businesses not to pay their fees.
From January to May 2017, 12 new business licences were issued in Burns Lake. These include three ownership changes, a short-term consulting firm and three contractors.