More than 550 businesses in Barron County apply and pay for various licenses issued by the county Department of Health and Human Services.

At a meeting Monday morning, June 22, 2020, the licenses – and the fees they bring in – were discussed by members of the County Board of Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee.

At issue was whether the County Board should consider offering licensees a discount on their fees, in deference to the drop in business volume during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Led by Karolyn Bartlett, chair and supervisor for Dist. 5, Dallas area, committee members talked about whether to discount the fees by 25 percent, in recognition of months of March through May 2020, businesses were either closed or had their operations curtailed by state coronavirus restrictions.

Were that to happen, the estimated $148,000 in fees would be reduced by about $49,000.

However, the lost revenue would have to be made up in other ways, probably from property tax revenue, committee members learned. The reason: the Department of Health & Human Services still needs to put in the staff time necessary to issue and oversee licensees and perform inspections at licensed businesses.

County Board Chair Louie Okey, Dist. 16, town of Cedar Lake, attended the meeting. He said that although he wasn’t a voting member of the committee, he would suggest that whatever changes the committee decided to make, it should be across the board for all licensees.

“If you’re going to do something, (it needs to be) fair for everyone,” Bartlett said. “I have no issue leaving the fees the way they are,” she added.

The committee eventually voted to keep license fees as is, and to send letters to licensees explaining the cost implications.