The city of Burlingame may ask voters to raise its business license tax for the first time in more than 30 years, despite concerns that the tax is unfair and could harm struggling merchants.
The City Council agreed this week to hire a political consultant to study a potential change to the tax — $100 annually per business — through a measure on the November ballot.
But business owners have said that the tax is unfair because large corporations pay the same as small companies. A city report showed 85 percent of the 6,384 licensed businesses have fewer than five employees.
Several council members at Monday’s meeting said they agreed with the complaint.
“There’s a disparity here, it’s been there for a long time,” Councilwoman Ann Keighran said.
Ross Bruce, president of the Broadway Merchants Association, said he is worried about the potential increase’s impact.
“While we are eager to see the city in financial health, we’re concerned about overburdening some of our weaker brothers and sisters in the merchant community,” Bruce said.
Increasing the tax by $100 for businesses with more than five employees would generate about $100,000 in extra revenue, officials said. But Mayor Terry Nagel and Vice Mayor Jerry Deal noted that the city is also asking Burlingame Avenue businesses for an assessment district to fix aging sewer and water pipes, and the school district is considering a parcel tax or bond measure.
“I think it’s piling on too much,” Deal said.
City officials expect to hire a consultant for $35,000 to $40,000 to collect feedback from businesses on potential changes, finance director Jesus Nava said. He hopes to bring a report back in May.