Moberly City Council discusses business license regulations

November 10, 2016
Moberly, MO

By Alex Lindley, MI Managing Editor

MOBERLY, Mo. — At a Monday night Moberly City Council meeting that was relatively light on the regular agenda, council members and city officials discussed Moberly's business license regulations in a work session.

In reviewing its business license rules, the city of Moberly discovered that gross receipts taxes and license fees are not applied evenly across all Moberly businesses.

Moberly City Counselor Randall Thompson at the meeting reviewed the ways in which the city could proceed.

“It's a very unusual situation for us to find ourselves in,” he said.

Thompson noted that individual business owners who might be taxed when they weren't before if the city decides to apply the gross receipts tax might make the argument that a “new” tax can't be applied without an election to do so.

Thompson went on to say that he has found very little precedent for this, so how to proceed is still up in the air.

“There are 400 and some merchants who by law could be charged that gross receipts tax who we have not charged, and I would imagine that one of them might object,” he said.

Currently, 108 Moberly merchants pay taxes on gross receipts, officials noted at the Monday meeting.

Moberly Mayor Bob Riley suggested bringing the situation to the attention of the attorney general or another state-level body for advice on how to proceed.

Moberly City Manager Brian Crane suggested that interpretation of the code guiding the application of gross receipts taxes and license fees might have varied among some city staff members, leading to the uneven application of the tax and fee.

According to the current definition in the Moberly city code, businesses that gain 55 percent or more of their business from retail sales should pay the gross receipts tax, while businesses that gain less than 55 percent from retail sales pay a license fee.

Crane noted that the system has largely been based on the honor system, with businesses reporting whether they meet the criteria to pay the gross receipts tax.

Council members elected to not move the item forward to the next Moberly City Council meeting, and Crane noted that city staff will continue working on the rules to make them more clear.

In other news during the work session, officials from Safe Passage, a domestic violence shelter and organization in Moberly that hosts the annual Wine Stroll to raise money, spoke to the council about plans for the 2017 Wine Stroll.

Safe Passage Secretary Natalie Meighan noted that the 2016 stroll brought more than 600 people to downtown Moberly. Although planning for the next event is still in its early stages, she said the group is hoping to expand the event and is potentially wanting to close some parts of downtown streets to traffic and temporarily adjust local alcohol ordinances.

Meighan said these efforts could make the event more festival-like.

Moberly Police Chief Troy Link spoke, saying he was in support of expanding the event, but the only potential problem he has identified so far is the adjustment of open-container rules to allow attendees to walk from business to business with wine glasses.

Link said he did not have a problem with wine glasses being openly carried, but he was worried that some could bring in bottles of liquor purchased elsewhere and carry them. He said a contained area could help with policing the event.

Council members discussed several other items during their work session Monday night, most of which were moved forward to the next meeting.

City Council members voted to appropriate $1,086,437.37 out of the city treasury.

All Moberly City Council members were present at the Nov. 7 meeting.