A dollar doesn't buy much any more, except in Anne Arundel, where a single greenback buys you a parade and $2 can license a tradesman fora year.
Thanks to years of oversights by the county Department ofInspections and Permits, Anne Arundel has the lowest trade and amusement licensing fees in the region -- a fact that is costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, said Robert J. Dvorak,appointed last fall to head the department.
Next week, the county begins a major overhaul of its licensing system that includes a plan to raise trade licensing fees substantially. An executive-appointed commission will start revising amusement licensing fees this spring.
Commercial bingo fees were raised recently as part of a bill designed to more closely regulate the controversial industry.
But most licensing fees have not been increased sincethe 1950s, Dvorak said. Some trade fees, due to negligence during anearlier licensing revision, have even been decreased inadvertently, Dvorak said.
"Nobody ever took a look at them," he said.
Legislation to be introduced Tuesday by County Executive Robert R. Neall will not only raise the licensing fees for electricians, gas fitters, mechanics and plumbers, but will also impose consistency on what now is a helter-skelter fee system.
Under the legislation, all master tradesmen will pay an annual $50 licensing fee; journeyman, $40; and apprentices, $25.
In addition, first-time license applicants will pay a $25 application fee, and those who must take licensing examinations will pay another $50.
As it is, some new applicants pay an extra fee, and some don't, Dvorak said. Some tradesmen pay for a licensing examination, and some don't. The fees for the licenses themselves vary widely from trade to trade and are a fraction of what other jurisdictions charge.
Baltimore County charges master plumbers and gasfitters $75 a year for a license. Anne Arundel charges $12.50.
A master electrician's license -- which in Montgomery costs $120 annually -- can also be had for $12.50 in Anne Arundel.
The journeyman and apprentice licenses are even cheaper. An apprentice gas fitter pays just $2 a year.
Dvorak says his department can't process the licenses for that price. "For $2, I'd be better off putting a stack of forms on the counter and telling people to fill them out and put them them in a jar. I lose money every time I issue a license."
Some 5,200 to 5,500 tradesmen currently hold licenses, Dvorak said. He estimates the county is losing at least $200,000 a year in trade licensingfees alone.
Other out-of-date licensing fees cost the county evenmore, he said.
The $1 parade fee "is the biggest bargain in the county," and hundreds of people take advantage of it each year, said permits chief Anne Hatcher.
Nearby counties require auctioneers to post bonds, in addition to paying licensing fees, as surety that theywill not abscond with money from auctioned goods, Dvorak said. But Anne Arundel's 50-some auctioneers pay only a $15 annual fee.
The county licenses more than 240 charity wheels and bingo charity carnivals a year. There is no licensing fee for charity wheels, and a $2 annual fee for charity carnivals.
"I'm not saying we should be gouging charity operations, but an overhaul is long overdue," Dvorak said.
Neall is expected to name appointees to a new Amusement License Commission on Feb. 24.
Jeannette Wessel, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Trade Council, agreed that some of the trade licensing fees are "artificially low."
However, in this recessed economy, some tradesmen may balk at an increase, she said.