EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Businesses could see the cost to be in business in the township double this year, under a township ordinance introduced Wednesday evening.

Township officials described the proposal, to double municipal mercantile fees, as a long-overdue adjustment to a 1989 ordinance that set the current rates.

"It's a 100 percent increase," township Administrator Peter Miller said, "but it hasn't gone up in 25 years."

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The new fees would be similar to those in neighboring municipalities, Miller said.

The largest single increase would be for car- and boat-repair facilities, which would see their mercantile license fees increase from $300 to $600.

Movie theaters would see their fee increase by from $200 to $400, with additional per-screen fees increasing from $100 to $200.

The ordinance would also add dealers of gold and precious metals, who would now pay $500.

One precious metal dealer, Douglas Keefe, a part-owner of Beachcomber Collectibles, said he understood that police have to review his records and their time is valuable. However, new automated systems mean a day's transactions can be reviewed in five minutes.

Otherwise, he said the fees are a relatively small price to pay to set up shop. "If $100 or $200 makes a difference in making or breaking your business, you shouldn't be in business in the first place," Keefe said.

Only seasonal, holiday-related stores will see no increase, with annual fees remaining at $25. That group includes the pop-up Spirit Halloween stores owned by Spencer Gifts, a national chain headquartered in the township.

The township raises between $10,000 and $12,000 a year from mercantile fees, Miller said. With the new fees, Miller said the township expects to receive between $8,000 and $10,000 additional, with some companies closing or moving.

Miller said the cost of the background checks and other police business has outstripped the money raised by fees and he hopes this increase would better offset those costs.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 10 at the Municipal Building, 3515 Bargaintown Road.

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