A City Council vote next week likely will bring a final decision on whether Colorado Springs will eliminate most fees for business licenses.
The council in a close vote approved the ordinance two weeks ago but Mayor Steve Bach vetoed the ordinance this week.
Bach said he supports the idea of ending the fees, which can cost more than $500, as a way to encourage more businesses to open and expand. However, Bach is concerned about losing $400,000 in annual revenue from the fees at a time when the city faces a $6 million budget shortfall next year.
"People say $400,000 doesn't seem like that much money," he said. "That is four to six firefighters or four to six police officers, really, when you start talking about what we might have to trade off. And if we're not going to charge the $20 a year annually that you normally pay for your license -- as an example -- then why would we not also eliminate the license itself? So I think we need to have a little more thoughtful conversation on that."
In response to the veto, some council members said they would consider opposing Bach's plan to temporarily waive fees paid by downtown developers to support parks and schools. A developer asked the city to do that in order to lower costs for a proposed apartment complex near the intersection of Nevada Avenue and Cimarron Street.
Council President Keith King said his fellow members would rather see such a plan be applied citywide, rather than in just one area. Bach responded by saying the council recently approved for the developer of Copper Ridge to charge a property improvement fee.
"That was done before we got on council.," King said. "So we're just following through with the promises that were made by previous councils. (The developer is) actually building a fire station with some of the proceeds of that fee. Everything stands on its own merit."
Bach said the council should decide whether it truly supports downtown development. He said no one on the council expressed concern to him about parks and schools fee, and only one council member spoke with him about the business license fee.
"One reason why no one's developing downtown, is because it costs too much," Bach said. "You can't compare downtown to Copper Ridge on the north side of the city. It's not a level playing field. I'm trying to be more business friendly."
Bach said the council should "set the politics aside and do what's best for the community."
King said the council has five of the six votes needed to override Bach's veto, and that he's not certain if the council will get the final vote in that regard.