May 16, 2005 Effective June 1, the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department is upping the cost of its licenses by 30 percent, Commissioner Andrew Rutnik said.
For example, he said many of the approximately 15,000 business licenses issued across the territory cost $200. The price will now rise to $260.
Rutnik said the increase is necessary to pay for improved service, including the ability to apply for and renew all licenses via the department's Web site using a Visa or MasterCard.
"We feel this innovation will save you hundreds of dollars in running around," Rutnik said.
He said that as soon as the licensing process is complete, residents will be notified by e-mail so they can print as many copies as they like of their license right off Licensing's Web site.
"You never have to come in to our office," he said.
If residents want to visit the office or don't have a computer, Rutnik said the office staff can accesses the computer system for them.
Rutnik said one of the biggest bottlenecks in the licensing process getting an Internal Revenue Service tax clearance letter has been resolved.
He said that Licensing now asks IRB for the tax clearance letter electronically. When residents apply or renew on line or at a Licensing office, the application will show a system of lights. Green means a tax clearance, red means a tax clearance problem and yellow means it's pending.
He said his department will soon start sending out renewal notices via e-mail.
Rutnik said the clock starts ticking on application. He said a fourth color light in blue will soon be available to alert the staff to the fact that 10 days have elapsed since the application but IRB hasn't responded.
"We will, at our discretion, issue a license," Rutnik said.
He said that he found it "immoral" that people could face long delays in getting business licenses so he's not willing to wait for clearances from other departments.
He said, should IRB subsequently turn up a problem, Licensing can revoke a business license.
Rutnik said the IRB system went online Jan. 1, but acknowledged glitches occurred while IRB got up and running.
He is also working to implement a similar interface with the other agencies that have input into the licensing process.
In discussing one of the agencies, he said that V.I. Fire Services gets a list of all license and renewal applications so it can decide which ones need inspection. Rutnik said that as a way to raise revenues, the department inspects, for example, the building each time one of the many lawyers in a building applies or renews a building license. Additionally, when the landlord's license comes due, another inspection is done.
Rutnik said he's pushing to only have Licensing notify Fire Services that an application has been filed rather than making the fire inspection part of the licensing procedure. He said unless the applicant is operating a nightclub, movie house or public building where fire safety is likely to be a major issue, his department will issue the license even if Fire Services hasn't gotten around to the inspection.
He said that some businesses need seven different inspections, including one by Licensing inspectors. He said they look to make sure the applicant has applied for the appropriate license and is located where they claimed to be.
Visit Licensing's Web site dlca.gov.vi at or call 774-3130 on St. Thomas, 773-2226 on St. Croix or 693-8036 on St. John.
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