For those who run Internet gaming businesses in Rockingham, it will cost a whole lot more to keep the doors open after July 1.
The Rockingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a privilege license fee schedule for the Internet businesses.
The rates take effect with the start of the city’s new fiscal year on July 1, and will be charged as part of privilege licenses required for all Internet cafe-type businesses; computer gaming.
The city will be charging an annual fee of $5,000 per location, plus $1,000 for each machine or computer in operation.
Council discussed the matter at its May meeting and directed staff to prepare a draft ordinance to govern those businesses. City Manager Monty Crump presented council with a proposed fee schedule Tuesday. There had been some discussion on limiting the number of machines at these type of businesses, however, the final adopted version has no limit.
Mayor Gene McLaurin asked Crump how much revenue will be generated by the new fees.
“We really don’t know,” Crump said. “We don’t know how many of those machines are out there.”
The money collected from the fees will go into the city’s general fund, noted Crump.
Crump was asked how the license fees would be enforced. He said it will start with the city’s tax collector, and later, police officers if necessary.
Crump pointed out how the legal standing of Internet gaming is a bit unclear in the state, and that court cases are pending which may have a bearing in the future. However, for the time being, many municipalities are adopting similar rules and requiring license fees from those businesses.
He also said there are legal and illegal Internet cafe-type businesses; the legal ones have predetermined ‘winners,’ who purchase computer time.
Also Monday, the council gave unanimous approval to the 2012-2013 general fund budget.
The new general fund budget amounts to $8,858,924, an increase of $221,591 over the 2011-12 general fund budget of $8,637,333.
Crump has described the new budget as “extraordinarily conservative.”
The budget keeps the lid on the city’s tax; it will remain at .48 cents per $100 of valuation.
The new fiscal year will see an increase in the monthly cost to households for garbage service, from $14.50 to $15.50, and water and sewer rates will rise 5 percent.
A budget report notes that 131 full-time positions are fully funded in the new budget, and for the first time in four years those employees will be getting a cost-of-living adjustment — a 3 percent pay raise.
“They certainly deserve it,” said McLaurin, a sentiment echoed by council members.
Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson said he believes the city staff has shouldered the burden during these recent lean budget years due to a tough economy and have done a “fantastic” job. Hutchinson said he’s delighted by the pay raises, “because they really earned it.”
In other action, the council:
• Approved orders to demolish dilapidated dwellings at 116 Zion St., and another at 107 Zion St.
• Congratulated police officer Marcus Ricks for completion of the NC Justice Academy Traffic Enforcement & Investigation Certificate Program. The certificate was presented to Ricks by Police Chief Billy Kelly.
• Held a public hearing to receive citizen input for a Community Development Block Grant application under the 2011 Infrastructure South Street project in East Rockingham. The city will be seeking a $720,000 grant for new public sewer on South Street in East Rockingham, to address a “real serious problem” where septic tanks in the area have failed.
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.