Some business owners concerned about higher employee fees

Some small business owners say Lynnwood’s increased employee tax is creating a hardship for them.

This year the fee that businesses pay for each employee went from $15.50 to $85, an increase of almost 600 percent. The new revenue helped fill a $22 million budget hole.

Some small business owners have been telling the City Council lately how the tax hike has been making things difficult for them.

“I used to pay $800; now I’m obligated to pay $6000 overnight,” said Sun Lee, owner of Olympus Spa at 38th Ave. W. and 196th Street SW.

“The business people are not there to pay off the debt that the government has created,” he said. “It is really hard to raise that money because small businesses run by a small margin of profit.”

Susan Torngren owns Pacific Preschool on 67th Avenue West. Her yearly fee went from $250 to $1100.

“I understand the need to increase the revenue for the city,” she told the Council Monday night. “I’d like to let you know that a 566 percent increase in the fees per employee with less than 60 days notice is an extreme hardship on a business as small as mine.”

Torngren was concerned that she wouldn’t have enough time to raise the money before the bill is due in mid-February.

Because of her testimony, the City Council offered some relief. They passed an emergency resolution to allow quarterly payments for business owners who express an economic hardship. The Feb. 15 late fee would also be waived.

“It is a definite economic hardship on a lot of small businesses and had we had a little more foresight and possibly more time I think we could have prevented adding to the stress level of small businesses,” said Council Vice President Kerri Lonergan-Dreke.

    1. What’s even more disturbing is that it’s par for the course in this city. City Council and the city workforce had dollarsigns in their eyes from the get-go. You are nothing but an ATM to be plundered whenever they feel like it.

  1. I’m confused by Sun Lee’s math. If he was paying approx. $800 @ $15.50 per employee, he had approximately 52 employees. If he is now paying approximately $6,000 @ $85 per employee, he has approximately 71 employees. ???? If he only has 52 employees, his new fee would be $4,420.

    An increase of that much is a poor way to balance a city’s budget, but the business owner’s claim attempts to make it sound like a greater increase than it is, which hurts the credibility of the opponents.

    Lynnwood should have been diversifying its economy for the past two decades, instead of relying only on sales taxes from the Alderwood Mall and other businesses. While perhaps the per employee fee should increase, this increase is too dramatic and too quick.

    1. I’d say it’s most likely that his business grew by a number of employees, and he was “guesstimating” on the fly. If his business experienced a significant expansion that his figures are not unreasonable.

      In any event, you are absolutely on the money that this was a poor way of balancing the city’s budget. Imagine having budgeted for your upcoming fiscal year based on the usual rate of $15.50 and then, out of the blue, you get a bill almost six times as much and if you don’t pay up, you’re out of business. It’s mafia-like.

  2. It’s totally par for course as far as the city is concerned. As a small business owner, they made me want to leave the city. Pack up and move. The mayor along WITH the council have mismanaged our tax dollars for years. I don’t trust them one bit to manage fixing their mess.

    1. Yes, both branches of government share responsibility but remember, it was City Council and City Council alone who made the conscious decision to extort money from you like this, to the tune of a 566% percent increase, overnight, without any warning to speak of, and the bill due in a couple months.

      As far as Lynnwood City Council is concerned, you are literally made of money.

      Remember also that as recently as one year ago they could have put a stop to the $26,000,000 public pool and consciously decidd not to do so.

      You are REDUNDANTLY justified in packing up shop and moving out of this city and if I were a small business owner and could do so, that is precisely what I would be doing.

      Imagine how many businesses will go away now, and therefore how many jobs will go away, as a result of this flagrant exercise in greed.

  3. Again, poor planning on the part of the city council. While there may be a need for a moderate increase in the tax, an increase of over 500% is unconscionable. Add to that lack of appropriate notice to impacted parties and it makes one think what the heck these folks are thinking.

  4. One of the reasons that the counsel doesn’t discuss this more and engage in greater debate on the issue of tax increases is because we don’t engage them. Sure we post comments on Lynnwood Today, and Heral Net or we sit aournd with friends and family and lament the good old days of lower taxes. Yet I am afraid however that we fail when it comes to showing up at city counsel meetings and going on the record.

    For example at the counsel meeting where the city counsel voted on this latest slew of taxes only 3 or 4 people spoke and 2 of them were litterly begging the counsel for more taxes. In fact more people have commented here than were in attendance at that meeting. I should know because I watched it on television, while sitting on my couch eating popcorn and vocally airing my comments to the TV and the empty room I was sitting in.

    Until the counsel meeting room is packed with citizens and each and every minute of the public comment time is filled up with folks that have something to say about it this will continue to happen, we will continue to pay higher taxes on more things, we will continue to be treated as “an ATM to be plundered whenever they feel like it.”

    Hummm. I am noting one problem with increased civic participation. If concerned citizens pack out the counsel room demanding time to speak their minds I am sure the counsel would itself become concerned enoungh (either for their safety or the safety of the citizens in attendance) to summon the police. This would in turn either increase overtime or decrease the level of police services available to the remainder of the city thereby requiring even more taxes to pay for it. Perhaps we should just stay at home.

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