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July 8, 2014

Salem eliminates Sunday business fee

Selectmen call tax 'unfair'

SALEM — For decades, businesses in town have been asked to pay a $50 fee to open on Sundays or holidays.

But that will change Jan. 1.

Selectmen voted, 4-1, on Monday to eliminate the annual fee, saying it was unfair because some businesses were paying the levy while others were not.

“I’ve said all along we have to enforce it or get rid of it,” Selectman Stephen Campbell said.

Only 228 of the several thousand businesses in town have paid the fee this year, Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin said yesterday. That’s down from 301 in 2011, he said.

Goodwin said the town doesn’t have the staffing to enforce the regulation, adopted by voters in 1983.

The ordinance is just one of approximately two dozen municipal codes recently reviewed by selectmen.

While some outdated regulations were updated or eliminated, including a curfew for minors, most do not need to be revised, he said.

Only a handful of communities in the state still charge a Sunday fee, which dates back to a time when most local businesses were closed on Sunday, Goodwin said.

“It’s definitely outdated and certainly times have changed,” Goodwin said.

Now, many Salem businesses operate on Sunday, but the town has not determined the number.

But selectmen said the approximately $11,000 in annual revenue from the fee is not worth it if the law isn’t fairly enforced.

The town has lost $260,000 lost each year since officials eliminated its annual $10 resident tax, repealed in 2011.

“I would vote to eliminate it right now,” Selectman Everett McBride Jr. said of the Sunday tax. “I don’t think we should keep it, I don’t think we need it.”

Selectman Michael Lyons agreed the fee must go.

“Right now, what we are doing isn’t fair,” he said.

Lyons said it wasn’t worth it for the town to spend $4,000 a year enforcing the regulation that generates just $11,000 in return.

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