Selma council considers single-day business license

The city of Selma plans to implement a one-day business license fee for vendors at special events

Downtown Selma looking south from the intersection of First St and High St. (Kenny Goodman)
Downtown Selma looking south from the intersection of First St and High St. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published April 5, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SELMA – Individuals interested in selling their goods at Selma’s special events will soon have a more budget-friendly way to do so, as the Selma City Council expressed interest in instating a one-day business license option.

The council unanimously agreed at its April 1 meeting to waive business license fees for vendors at two upcoming special events — the annual Sikh Parade and the Selma Raisin Festival — for this year only while the city prepares a resolution to change business license fees and implement the one-day license. The fees have not been officially changed yet but will be revisited at a future meeting.

“The next step in the process would be to bring a formal resolution changing the fees,” Deputy City Manager Jerome Keene said. “This information was strictly informational to allow council to have input into how the fees are structured.”

Currently, vendors at special events are required to have a business license to operate within the city; any taxes and fees associated with the license vary depending on the business type, but they can cost hundreds of dollars. For a business with a location in Selma, the application fee alone costs $205.

The special events ordinance update that was passed in August 2023 introduced this requirement, and residents have now said it is negatively impacting their lives as annual special events come up. They said this is because the requirement makes it impractical for people who don’t have a regular business to operate a booth at special events. 

Selma resident Carmen Hill brought up her concerns with the requirement at the March 4 council meeting, explaining to the council that she is retired, living on a fixed income and likes to offer face painting services at just a few events each year to supplement her income. She does face painting for churches and nonprofits, but otherwise only sets up at the Selma Raisin Festival, she said.

“I don’t charge a lot for what I do because we are a poor community, and I do a lot of them for free because the kids want them and the parents can’t afford them,” Hill said. “Saying that, … why am I paying $500 or more for a business license for one event? It’s the only one I do.” 

Hill added that the business license categories did not apply to her, because she does not have a brick-and-mortar store but also doesn’t operate out of her home or provide vehicle delivery services, which are other types of businesses that have their own license fees associated with them.

In response to this and other public comments, Keene said city staff looked at what surrounding cities were doing for business licenses for short time periods, and found that many neighboring cities had small fees for a license that would be good for just one or two days. 

Of the neighboring cities Selma looked at, the average one-day business license fee came out to $27.89, and so Keene recommended that the council implement a one-day business license fee of $30. That cost matches the fee that is required of businesses that have locations outside of Selma and want to operate within the city. 

With both the Sikh Parade and the Selma Raisin Festival approaching quickly, Keene also recommended that the council waive the fee requirements for vendor business licenses for those events because the city will not be able to bring forward a formal resolution in time. 

Keene said city staff also reviewed the business license application fee, which was raised to $205 in the last fee update passed in 2021. These application fees are usually based on how much time it takes city employees to process an application. 

When looking at the different staff members who review business license applications and their fully-burdened rates — meaning how much in salaries and benefits the city is paying an employee for one hour — Keene said that the city could lower the application fee from $205 to $155. 

Further, Keene brought up a discussion the council had the previous week during a zoning code update work session, and said that as part of the code update, the city would be reviewing the home occupation permit fees that are required of businesses operating out of homes. 

Current home occupation permit fees cost $455, which Keene said reflects the time it takes city employees to inspect the home to ensure it is up to code so it can welcome customers and employees. 

Many businesses that operate from a home may not have in-person customers, however, so the zoning code would be adjusted to recognize “major” and “minor” home occupations, with the minor home occupation permit fee being lowered to match the standard business license fee.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter