“I sucked it up and paid the fee, which will take numerous stories to pay for itself,” Preston said. “But I’m not going to let (the license requirement) prevent me from being able to contribute to the paper at a time when local journalism couldn’t be more important.”
St. Helena’s annual licensing fee of $100 for the “professional” classification is higher than the cost of comparable licenses in Calistoga ($31 a year) and Napa ($40 a year plus a percentage of gross receipts at a minimum of $20).
Finance Director April Mitts said Preston’s fee included a prorated portion of the annual $100 fee plus a one-time $200 fee for a separate home occupation application. In Epstein’s case, the home occupation application wasn’t completed as stipulated, and the planning department will have to follow up, Mitts said.
Most of St. Helena’s business license fees were established in 1994, and the methodology by which they were set is unclear, Mitts said. Since the passage of Proposition 218 in 1996, local governments can only increase business license fees or create new ones through a vote of the people. She said more research would be required to determine whether the City Council could lower business license fees without a ballot measure.
Kathy Ball, a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, lives in Napa. Her Napa business license cost a total of $59.