Business License Fees Approved

    GRAND RAPIDS — The City Commission approved Tuesday a new business licensing fee schedule effective July 1 through April 30 next year.

    First issuance fees are lower than last year for 36 of 57 licensing categories, and annual fees increased over 2002 levels for the remaining 21 categories.

    License renewal fees were lowered for all but three categories — valet parking special events licenses, liquor licenses and taxicab driver licensing fees, the latter of which continued to spark debate last week.

    A recent Michigan Municipal League analysis of the city’s business license program revealed it costs $182.93 to process a taxicab driver business license, which includes criminal and traffic history checks, fingerprinting, photographing and issuing of an ID badge and license.

    The city’s role in that process is a means of protecting the public, and the cost of doing that is reflected in the fee structure, Mayor John Logie pointed out.

    Second Ward Commissioner Lynn Rabaut agreed the city was justified because the steps it has to take to ensure public safety warrant those fees.

    “But if you look real close at the figures, the cab companies have taken a dramatic increase in their fee,” she said. “I wish for more time to work with the cab companies to try to find a way to cover these costs, because to me it’s a subsidy of a private business.”

    Taxi meter rates in Grand Rapids are among the lowest of all cities in Michigan, according to the city.

    Logie said it seems to him cab companies here operate more or less like dispatch centers served by taxi drivers that are independent entrepreneurs.

    “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be interesting to have the city encourage a true cab company to come into this community…” he said, referring to the kind of company that owns its own vehicles and does its own training, as many cab companies in larger cities do.

    First Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak said the increase in cab driver renewal fees to $183 probably seems excessive to cabbies and suggested it was time the city stop regulating the meter rate taxi drivers can charge passengers.

    Rabaut said she, too, is not convinced there’s a need for the city to continue regulating taxi meter rates.

    “I’m not sure why we would,” she said. “It seems to me that this is an open market. They’re not going to get more than the market can bear.”

    Logie instructed City Manager Kurt Kimball to schedule a time for commissioners to further discuss the issue.

    “How do we want the cab system to work? That’s a fair question for the seven of us to engage in,” he said.           

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