Oak Lawn may boost businesses by waiving $600,000 in licensing fees

Oak Lawn may boost businesses by waiving $600,000 in licensing fees

A tough economy and an Illinois Policy Institute report has Oak Lawn considering waiving business license renewal fees for a year. Giving up $600,000 in fees is expected to attract new businesses and help older ones.

The Village of Oak Lawn will vote July 12 whether to give businesses a break by waiving an estimated $600,000 in license renewal fees for a year.

Oak Lawn Trustee Ralph Soch believes it’s a good first step in helping local business owners.

“We talk about how pro-business we are. We want our businesses to thrive. We want them to stay here and we want to attract businesses to Oak Lawn. This is just one small step in helping out our Oak Lawn business owners,” Soch said.

Licensing fees in Oak Lawn vary based on the type and size of business. A bakery with up to 1,500 square feet in space pays $75 a year. Offices and stores closer to 100,000 square feet pay fees of $965 a year. The amnesty won’t apply to video gaming licenses.

Soch and fellow Trustee Paul Mallo cited Illinois Policy Institute research showing Gov. J.B. Pritzker handed businesses $650 million in tax and fee hikes since taking office. The two came up with the amnesty proposal after reading the report.

“Trustee Soch and I both work in industries that are getting hammered by inflationary pressures, labor shortages and ongoing supply-chain issues,” Mallo said. “The Illinois Policy report is exactly right: We must prioritize taking care of our businesses and find ways to cut the punitive tax burdens on them.”

Illinois was the only Midwestern state to drop in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate rankings in the past five years. Since 2017, Illinois’ business climate dropped from 26th to 36th.

Trustee Terry Vorderer said he’d prefer to lower, not waive, business license fees unless the village can afford Mallo’s and Soch’s proposal.

Village Manager Thomas Phelan said a home rule sales tax increase will cover the lost revenue from business licenses. Phelan’s goal is to make the license process less expensive and easier to understand.

“Our business licensing fee structure is, frankly, outdated and overly complex,” Phelan wrote.

The amnesty proposal is on the agenda for Oak Lawn’s next meeting July 12.

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