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Poplarville aldermen eye delinquent business license fees

Saying they have no choice but to collect what is termed privilege license fees, or taxes, according to a state law, the board  of aldermen on Tuesday moved to tighten the collection process of the fees charged for a license to do business in the city.

The board said it had no choice in the matter, that state laws require the assessment, the licensing and the collection of the fee.

City officials said some businesses have been ignoring the fees, although no one said how many.

However, the problem was large enough for the board to take notice and to act to tighten controls over the collection process.

City officials are hoping that those who have not paid the fee and are delinquent will come in and voluntarily pay, but the board left no doubt that for those who fail to pay the fee, or tax, the city will move to collect it under legal proceedings available to the city.

The board indicated if the fee is not paid, the city will, after proper notice, file charges against those failing to pay. The charge would be a misdemeanor.

City attorney Martin Travis Smith told the board that his research on the state law leaves no doubt that the city is legally required to assess and collect the privilege fees, also called “privilege taxes.”

“The state law says you shall collect privilege taxes and that it shall be mandatory. If the tax collector (the city clerk) doesn’t do it, that official will be in violation of the law, too, and could be charged with a misdemeanor. So the law is very definite and clear,” said Smith.

Smith said the burden to pay the privilege tax is clearly delineated by law and placed squarely on the proprietor, and that those failing to obtain a license and/or pay the tax on an annual schedule, can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined and assessed penalties equal to the tax plus 10 percent plus one percent per month for as long as the tax is not paid.

“The law is definite on that, too,” Smith told the board.

In addition to the civil penalties, Smith said criminal statutes allow for those violating the law to be fined up to $500.

Smith said those not paying the privilege tax can be cited and charged in court, and fined for not paying the tax, after they are given proper notice that it is due.

Smith said the fees are nominal, running $20 a year for a company with three or fewer employees.

The city is drafting a letter to give to business proprietors. A deadline is given in the letter for payment of the tax, and if it is not paid by that date, the city plans to take  legal action on the matter.

In other matters on Tuesday, the board of aldermen:

— Heard Mayor Billy Spiers say that an engineer’s estimate on a Church Street extension behind the lower elementary school tagged the project an estimated $459,927. A plan for extending the street to connect with Michigan Avenue has been put forward to help alleviate the congestion on Julia Street where parents line up at the school to deliver and pick up their children.

— Took under advisement what was termed on the agenda, under item No. 12, as “Citizen complaint: Pool Hall regulations, 105 Hwy. 11 South.” Spiers said the matter was being postponed because two police officers, who need to be present when the complaints are aired, were out of town this week. Taking a matter under advisement means it is being postponed until a later date.

— Heard Alderman Byron Wells say that before the next budget is drawn up, he wanted the city to develop a street-paving plan, and try to include in the budget, if possible, some streets to be paved.

— Hired engineering firm, The Walker Associates, to prepare plans to be submitted to the Mississippi Recreational Trails Program Grant of the State Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for possibly getting a grant for the city park. The grant would be a 20-80 match, with the city putting up 20 percent of the money.

— Approved travel expenses for Justin Miller and Jonathan Head of the fire department to go to a pre-hospital and life support seminar in Hattiesburg April 9-10.

— Approved adding two volunteer firemen: John Haywood and Michael Stockstill.

— Approved adding part-time fireman Rusty Shoultz.

— Declared property at 106 East Orr St. a public nuisance and directed city crews to clean it up. The costs of the cleanup will be assessed to the owner.

— Recessed to April 17.