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This complaint didn't fall on deaf ears

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By BEN CARLSON

Kudos to the Lawrenceburg City Council for listening to business owners and tabling the idea of requiring them to submit a federal tax return to purchase an occupational license.

In an attempt to create a more equitable means of determining how much each business should pay for its license, the city's finance committee and council have worked the past several months to revise the fee schedule. Instead of what appeared to be random amounts charged to different business categories, the idea was to follow models used by other cities and base the amounts on gross receipts as shown on federal tax returns.

Business owners complained, some arguing that tax returns don't break down business done solely in Lawrenceburg and that they would have to pay a portion of their license fee on business done outside of the city.

Although the city has already sent out renewal notices asking for returns, City Clerk Robbie Hume said that submitting them was voluntary even before the council's decision to table the issue and that it's likely the council will now re-examine the requirement.

"It has been tabled and sent back to the finance committee," Hume said Monday afternoon. "That's a direct result of concerned folks calling in.

"This has caused more heartache than anyone intended."

Hume said the idea of using fee ranges based on receipts will likely remain, but how those receipts are determined could be altered.

"The requirement for income verification might be different," he said. "We may go to a form that, when you sign an application, you say this is how much business is done in the city, which would be subject to audit, or some other language that doesn't require them to submit a full federal tax return."

While that places the onus of honesty on business owners, it also alleviates the city's need to store and protect from prying eyes highly confidential tax returns.

Some won't like whatever version of this ordinance that is ultimately adopted, but it's refreshing to see a public body willing to listen to its constituency and be flexible.

That's how government is supposed to work.