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Snellville leaders say no to business tax hardship ordinance

SNELLVILLE -- A majority of city council members and Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer voted down a proposed occupational tax hardship ordinance, a law that would allow small businesses with $2 million and less in gross receipts to get a one-time 20 percent reduction in the occupational tax owed to Snellville.

Councilwoman Kelly Kautz, who proposed the change, made some last-minute changes during the work session that preceded Monday's council meeting. Those changes alleviated some of the burden on small business owners that other council members had said would be a problem.

According to Kautz, Monday's changes would have made proving hardship a matter of simply signing a sworn affidavit, not producing tax records and company books for scrutiny. Another change made by Kautz allowed for City Manager Russell Treadway or a city staff member to review applications, not a committee. Councilman Mike Sabbagh backed Kautz's proposed ordinance and supported her claim that, even though the savings may not amount to much, anything helps in a time of financial difficulty.

Councilman Tom Witts was the most vocal opponent of Kautz's proposal, saying that "I'm not a lawyer, an accountant or an engineer ... but I am a businessman. This is a perfect example of government maybe having good intentions, but having no idea what businesses need."

Witts then presented numbers demonstrating that, on average, a small business would save anywhere between $4.92 and $9.34 under the hardship ordinance. "It would cost them more to drive to city hall and apply," he added.

Witts later added that the city is working on a plan to provide meaningful, long-term help to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Councilman Tod Warner agreed with Witts, saying that he "could not look a small businessman in the eye and say, 'Look what I did for you'" by voting in support of the ordinance.

Kautz said later in the meeting that she would be putting an item on an upcoming city council agenda that would suggest a placing a moratorium on 2012 business taxes "so we can significantly help small businesses."

City rolling out partnership aimed at boosting small businesses, entrepreneurs

From 8 a.m. to noon on May 20, Snellville, Entrepreneur Advisors and the Atlanta Business Chronicle will present a simulcast presentation of the Entrepreneurial Education May Symposium. Any entrepreneurs or small business owners who wish to learn best business practices and survival skills in this tricky economic environment are invited to attend. The event will take place in the South Gwinnett High School auditorium.

According to Oberholtzer, this presentation is the first of several measures Snellville will take to strengthen and attract business to the city, although anyone who wishes to attend can register later this week on the city's website at www.snellville.org.