EDITORIAL: Businesses should find better arguments against city fees

For some time now some local business owners have been claiming that Liberty Hill is not business friendly. We’ve given both sides of that argument plenty of ink here at The Independent over the last two years. Examples of new city rules, extra paperwork and more fees have been offered as what some believe to be irrefutable evidence that the city is clamping down on local business growth. The truth is, this newspaper is also a business, part of a corporation that meets a payroll, pays taxes and complies with both governmental and professional standards and regulations. We have a great affinity for small local businesses that valiantly seek to bring needed products and services to the community while earning a fair profit.

We believe that every single governmental regulation should be based in common sense. Compliance with those regulations should be made as simple as possible and the governmental entities should take care to not kill the business geese who are laying the eggs that bring in the tax dollars. In this way, all small businesses are connected to one another.

However, there is a reason that state elected leaders allow cities to collect more fees from certain for-profit businesses than others. The idea of levying sin taxes sure isn’t new and those who complain about those fees associated with the distribution and consumption of alcohol certainly isn’t new either. In fact, President George Washington had to saddle up his horse and ride out with the army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.

Sometimes city governments call on certain businesses to pay more in licensing fees. The rationalization behind these laws are the beliefs that establishments that sell and serve alcohol take a larger share of the pie when it comes to public services. More public safety calls to police; fire and EMS are related to the sale and consumption of alcohol. State and local governments don’t see these laws as being attacks on the businesses that earn an honest living in this area; it’s seen as a tradeoff between the need for the business versus the amount of public services needed because of that business. For example, trucking companies pay additional fees that go to fund the repair and upkeep of roads, bridges and highways.

In recent weeks during public meetings of the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. and the Christian Business Leaders Association, the City’s fee for alcohol-related businesses has been brought up as an example of how wrong things have gotten. While we don’t doubt the facts of those making the claim, we think the Liberty Hill business community needs a better poster child for lowering fees. Politically speaking, in a small conservative, predominantly Christian community, we doubt the public or the voters will be very moved by those who profit from the sale of alcohol as the public face of a campaign to reduce fees on local businesses. The truth is, there needs to be a better example and it needs to come from business owners who don’t have an open conflict by serving on an appointed city board or commission.

Business leaders are right to push for a fair fee structure, but all of us in business should resist the temptation to become constant complainers and non-stop bellyachers against every single rule and fee. In fact, our reputation as business owners should be one of paying our fair share and seeking to give back to the community that supports our local enterprises.

As Liberty Hill struggles to move from the rural farming community that mightily resisted even becoming a city, let’s not forget that the biggest rule we need to remember is, at least as it relates to government, cleanliness is next to Godliness (not in the holy scriptures, but still good advice).

Transparency, ethics and best business practices will lead the taxpayers toward a more trusting relationship with both city government and local businesses.