By Lyna Bentahar
SEABROOK – In its new fiscal year, the Town of Upper Marlboro is settling into their Town Business License Program, which adds a local business license fee to Upper Marlboro establishments on top of fees that businesses already pay for licenses from the county and state.
The Board of Commissioners approved the program of Commissions for the Town of Upper Marlboro in October 2018. This July 1 marked the beginning of the first year that businesses are now legally obligated to have business licenses from the Town of Upper Marlboro.
Fees for the licenses are $300, with an additional fee for liquor licenses. There is no required fee for home-operated businesses or nonprofits. These fees are generally uniform and are more or less expensive than county licenses, depending on the business.
As of Aug. 14, 38 businesses have signed on to the licensing program. However, not all of them have submitted the licensing fee, according to William Morgan, the town’s financial director. He attributed this mainly to businesses who have not received the documents detailing these fees that the town first sent out in May.
Morgan says that he has been working directly with businesses to make sure that they are aware of the new program. The town has delivered new applications for companies that have not submitted their licensing fees.
“(We need to) just keep them aware of this new ordinance that the commissioners passed,” said Morgan.
The license program is part of Upper Marlboro’s recent push to increase revenue through fees. Along with the program, the town has also been updating and expanding its parking authority.
Since July 1, new parking meters that accept both coins and credit cards have been installed along Main Street, and the county has removed its parking meters on Governor Oden Bowie Drive and turned over its parking authority to the town.
These parking rates have seen a significant increase from earlier this year, from charging $0.75 an hour to $2.50 an hour, along with increased operating times.
Linda Pennoyer, commissioner and treasurer of Upper Marlboro, admitted that the license fees have not been entirely well-received.
“We do have some (businesses) that are not too happy,” she said.
Fiona Jiong, who works at China Taste Restaurant on Main Street, saw a mix of reactions several weeks ago when business owners came around to discuss the new license fees.
“I asked other owners, that have paid or haven’t paid,” said Jiong. “We already paid. But we pay for a lot of fees already.”
Jiong explained that due to the nature of their work, businesses have not been able to gather to talk about the fees, already too busy with their day-to-day affairs.
Upper Marlboro tax rates are the lowest in the county and are among the lowest in the state. Property taxes have not been raised in more than 30 years. According to the town ordinance, the purpose of the fees is more explicitly to “defray the costs of administration and regulation by the Town.”
“We need them to step up,” said Pennoyer.
Pennoyer also asked that consumers support the town’s businesses. With Upper Marlboro Café and Main Street Coffee & Treats seeing their grand openings this month, Pennoyer “(urged) you all to stop in.” The town will hold a work session meeting on Aug. 27 where the business licenses will be a topic of discussion for the council, Pennoyer added.
“I have seen too many businesses come and go because there is no support,” said Pennoyer. “As often as you can, support them.”