Key Reforms to Eliminate or Reduce Excessive Fees Impacting Small Businesses

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Brandon M. Scott
Baltimore City
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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Business Leaders Announce Key Reforms to Eliminate or Reduce Excessive Fees Impacting Small Businesses

Under administration’s new guidelines, many businesses will see annual fee reductions of several thousand dollars

BALTIMORE, Md. (January 20, 2015)—Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was joined by Baltimore City Department of General Services Director Steve Sharkey, Baltimore Development Corporation President & CEO William H. Cole, and local business leaders to announce key reforms that will eliminate or significantly reduce excessive “minor privilege fees” impacting small businesses in Baltimore City.

“Small businesses that can thrive are critical to our efforts to grow Baltimore—it makes no sense to punish business owners for investing in their companies,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “These common sense reforms are our latest step to ensure that Baltimore's small businesses have the resources they need to grow and invest in our city’s future.”

Under the new minor privilege fee schedule, which will go before the Board of Estimates tomorrow, small businesses will no longer be charged for, or will pay a reduced fee for, adding certain enhancements to their businesses, such as security cameras, bicycle racks, ADA compliant ramps, and awnings used for beautification. The revisions to the schedule are part of the administration’s larger, ongoing effort to reform City tax policy and fee structures.

“This is a critical boost for small businesses in Baltimore. While some minor privilege permits are necessary, the current schedule and fees have proven to be burdensome and confusing,” said BDC President & CEO William H. Cole. “The actions taken to improve the minor privilege schedule and structure will encourage growth in our small business community, particularly in our retail and Main Street districts. I hope that every penny saved will be reinvested in the buildings and the people that make up our small business community.”

The Baltimore City Department of General Services (DGS) administers the Minor Privilege Program, which provides guidelines on what can and cannot be placed outdoors within the public right-of-way, to promote an active, accessible, and responsive urban environment. The current minor privilege fee schedule often disincentivizes small business participation in façade improvement programs, due to accompanying fees.

“As a department, we saw an opportunity to support the mayor’s efforts to grow Baltimore, further the city as a bike-friendly destination, incent greater access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and support the local, neighborhood businesses that help strengthen the community, all while increasing sidewalk and retail activity,” said Department of General Services Director Steve Sharkey. “These changes make sense. Removing annual fees for local business that want to make improvements to their business is in the best interest of the City.”

The Minor Privilege Program reforms will reduce expenses for many small businesses operating in Baltimore City while supporting the City’s Outcome Based Budgeting goals by encouraging street and sidewalk beautification. Specifically, the reforms will:

  • Update the fee schedule to reduce confusion by removing certain outdated or prohibited items.
  • Immediately eliminate certain fees for items that serve the public good or support an established City policy.
  • Eliminate annual fees for key minor privilege items, converting the annual fee to a one-time payment.

These reforms are the latest step in the mayor’s ongoing efforts to provide resources that meet the changing needs of small business owners and support the administration’s goal of growing Baltimore by 10,000 families.

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