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Hopkinton councilors brave the storm to cut holiday license fees

HOPKINTON — The Town Council has given local businesses a substantial reduction in their holiday sales license fees. Council members, all five of whom braved the snowstorm to attend their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, agreed to lower the fee from $50 per year to $10 for ten years, or $1 a year. The vote was unanimous.

Councilor David Husband, who introduced the idea of lowering the fees at the Jan. 6 council meeting, said it was a way for the town to give something back to its 24 businesses.

“Let’s do something for the businesses in this town. This is a perfect way of saying ‘thank you for doing business in this town. We appreciate you being here.’ Most of the businesses are mom and pop stores. These kinds of businesses make a town, and we want them to stay,” he said.

The state requires that businesses wishing to stay open on holidays obtain holiday sales licenses; the towns determine and collect the fees, up to $100. License fees vary widely, with Charlestown and Westerly charging $50, Richmond charging $10 and Exeter charging nothing.

Hopkinton collects $1,200 per year in license fees, but the annual renewals were time-consuming for the town clerk’s office. The introduction of 10-year licenses will reduce the workload, and council President Frank Landolfi said that computer software will keep track of when new and existing businesses have paid their $10 fees and when they need to renew them.

“If you’ve got a new business coming in, you issue a holiday sales license, you put it in the computer, and you can put a “tickler” [reminder] out that far in advance. It’s not that complicated,” he said.

Without the license fees, Town Clerk Elizabeth Cook-Martin will see her department’s revenue reduced by $1,200 in coming years, but Landolfi said that was not a concern.

“Her budgets are usually in very good shape. We’ll address it in the upcoming budget session, but I feel confident in her ability to manage the budget. That’s not going to adversely affect her bottom line,” he said.

Most Hopkinton businesses paid $50 to renew their licenses in December. Husband said the town will now consider that fee as payment for 10 years.

“We’re going to use the $50 that they’ve paid us for this coming year as their $10 fee for the next ten years. We’re not going to charge them $10 next year. So the $50 that they’ve paid already is going to represent their payment for the next 10 years,” he said.

Husband said that the council wanted to send a message to Hopkinton businesses that they were welcome in the town.

“You know what? It’s a nice gesture toward those people who want to do business in our town, because we’re not giving them anything for the fee. That’s the bottom line. We just say ‘hey, give us 50 bucks if you want to open on a holiday.’ Horrible,” he said.

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