For about 10,000 owners, it's the price of doing business in Augusta...paying for a business license. But, city leaders feel not all businesses pay so they hired Preema, a business license head hunting firm in February to track them down and collect.
"And, what they were doing was looking for undiscovered revenue. They were looking for businesses, that are located in Augusta, that haven't paid their occupation tax," says Rob Sherman, of the Augusta License and Inspections Department.
Sherman says the company went back to 2009 and discovered about 134 companies that owed back business license taxes, and penalties.
The company has collected nearly $500,000, which according to their contract, will be split with the city 50-50.
"Roughly $250,000 so far, they're still working," says Sherman.
"It's making sure that people pay what they owe, so it's a good thing," says City Administrator Fred Russell. "Are you surprised at the amount the city will collect?" we asked. "A little bit, I thought the number, when I initially saw it, was a little lower than that. Obviously, they combed through fairly well and we're excited about it," says Russell.
It is License and Inspections' job to collect business licenses fees, but with only three inspectors, some fall through the cracks, so Sherman feels hiring the outside help has been worth it.
"We're $250,000 ahead of where we were, we have learned some research methods that we didn't know, had not considered so that was worth it," says Sherman.
And, with an $8 million budget shortfall, the city is in need of new revenue...$250,000 has been uncovered, but there's still a long way to go.
"It's good money we didn't have, but in the grand scheme of things, big numbers...but not really a whole lot," says Russell.
Commissioners will be back to the budget battle Tuesday. There's a 1:00 p.m. public hearing at the Commission Chambers, but Russell says it's a public input session and he's not coming with any new recommendations to reduce the $8 million shortfall, though Commissioners have been working behind the scenes on plans to balance the budget.
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