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Business licenses, revenue from vending shows increase

Vending machines are source revenue for City Waukegan. | File photo

Vending machines are a source of revenue for the City of Waukegan. | File photo

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:20AM

WAUKEGAN — The city’s effort to boost non-tax revenue by enacting various fee increases a year ago this month — including hikes in business licenses for operations large and small — has produced some gains, even while personnel cuts prompted by budget deficits require that one employee is charged with monitoring payment from more than 3,000 businesses.

Also, while it remains to be seen how much gambling revenue the city will see from the rollout of the Illinois Video Gaming Act, general revenue from the licensing of amusement devices has nearly doubled over the past three years. Mayor Robert Sabonjian said Monday that he feels part of the reason for the increases is stronger enforcement of license requirements despite depleted personnel.

“The numbers have gone up because of the fact that we have dedicated personnel making sure everyone is paying equally,” Sabonjian said, adding, without making direct allegations, that he believes there were “political reasons” that some businesses were not paying for licenses and other fees in past years.

According to figures supplied by license administrator Wendy Beshel, revenue for business licenses alone went from $2.43 million in the 2010 fiscal year to $2.79 million in 2012, the year after the City Council approved increases that ranged from $3,000 annually for a pawn broker (up from $2,000) to $150 for a mobile food vendor (up from $100). That February 2011 measure also added new license categories, such as $100 annually for home-based businesses.

The license administrator’s office, which currently includes only Beshel and a clerical aide, is also charged with monitoring compliance with the city’s 1 percent sales tax on food and beverages, which also was approved by aldermen in February and enacted on May 1. Figures supplied by the office show that, with about three months remaining in the fiscal year, food and beverage tax revenue is up $230,000, having risen from $930,227 to $1.16 million through January.

The tax, which applies to “food prepared for immediate consumption and on alcoholic beverages sold by a business which provides for immediate consumption of said food or alcoholic beverages,” was estimated at the time of its passage to generate $600,000 annually. Among the businesses that must file a monthly return with the city are not only restaurants and taverns but mini-marts and theaters.

The rise in licenses and revenue for coin-operated devices, primarily from taverns and restaurants, shows the city collecting $29,187 from vending machines, juke boxes and billiard tables in 2010 and $59,417 in 2012. While the number of juke boxes held steady at 29, billiard-table licenses went up from 26 to 55 and amusement devices rose from 86 to 180. The number of licences issued for vending machines more than doubled, from 526 in 2010 to 1,160 in 2012.

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