Heflin City Council rescinds business license ordinance
December 22, 2017
By Bill Wilson
The Anniston Star

Bowing to public pressure, the Heflin City Council voted unanimously to rescind a business license ordinance during an emergency called meeting Friday night.

Local business owners had crowded into the meeting room to voice their concerns over the ordinance, passed in mid-November, which raised the fees collected for business licenses. The rescission means that the business license ordinance for 2018 is the same as it was for 2017.

Heflin Mayor Rudy Rooks opened the night during a work session with a note of contrition.

“I want to apologize to the council and our business owners,” Rooks said.

Rooks said that the city had wanted to get the fee structure more in line with other communities the same size as Heflin by using gross receipts instead of a flat fee for calculating a business license. The ordinance would have charged 30 cents for each $1000 in gross receipts with a cap of $1000. Some businesses in Heflin already pay their business licenses by gross receipts. Rooks said the business license situation in Heflin is “scattered all over the place.”

“I didn't do enough research on it — I’ll take full responsibility for this whole thing — we didn’t plug in numbers like we should,” Rooks said.  

So when the business license bills started arriving like unwanted Christmas cards, the calls to city hall started.

Rooks said the business license fees have not been changed in 10 years and he wants Heflin to be business friendly.

“It was a such a sticker shock on some of the businesses,” Rooks said.

Many in attendance said their license fees doubled, tripled and quadrupled under the now-rescinded ordinance.

Denise White, owner of the local Piggly Wiggly, stood up during the work session to voice her concerns over the situation.

“It’s going to affect the community,” White said. She said that when someone is in need of help, business people are the first to help.

“Businesses are some of the first people that step up; we clothe them, we feed them, we give them gas cards, we give them lumber,” White said.

“We are constantly giving and sponsoring our community but when y’all are going to put us on gross sale for a business license — that is really going to dip in to what we’re able to give back to our community,” White said.

“Even the $1000, the cap, that’s too much for our little community,” White said.

During a work session on Nov. 7, Heflin City Clerk Shane Smith said that some business licenses would go up and some would go down. When the vote was taken Nov. 14, Councilmen Shannon Roberts abstained — the rest of the council voted for it. The council had the ordinance for two weeks before voting for it.

Roberts said he understood the ordinance to be a reorganization of how businesses were classified and he thought the financial consequences were going to be minimal. Roberts said he abstained because he was dealing with another issue and did not have the time to understand it.

“I’m going to be with y’all,” Roberts said to the approval of the crowd.

Councilman Travis Crowe said he did not have all of the information when he voted for the ordinance. The rest of the council members said they were in favor of repealing the ordinance.

Adjusted business license bills will be sent out to affected firms, industries and retailers of the city, officials said.