CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Upwards of 5,000 doctors, accountants, lobbyists and other service providers will soon be getting letters from Charleston City Collector Tonya Cotton, telling them they need to obtain a city business license for the first time under an ordinance passed last month.
The good news is it won't cost them much -- $20 a year.
That's 20 percent less than originally intended. After council members passed a bill to license service providers on April 15, city leaders learned the $25 fee written into the bill violates state law.
So a week ago, another bill was introduced into council to lower the fee to $20. Council is expected to pass it next Monday.
"This comes out of an initiative from Wheeling, a home rule initiative," City Manager David Molgaard said. "The Legislature then turned around and passed a statute to allow all municipalities to do that. We were aware of that and we took the initiative."
The idea was to streamline the city's complicated business licensing system -- a mishmash of 49 different rates and classifications -- into a single class with a standard fee.
But Charleston officials initially overlooked one of the provisions of HB 2075, passed in 2011, that says cities that adopt a one-size-fits-all business license can charge no more than $20.
"I believe [City Attorney] Paul Ellis picked up on it," said Finance Director Joe Estep. "He sent an email to me."
Working with the city collector's office, Estep was preparing to mail letters to nearly 7,000 Charleston businesses -- renewal notices to those already registered and alerts to service providers covered under the new ordinance. He's changing the dollar amount of the fee and waiting for council's final approval of that change -- just to be sure.