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An earlier version of this story was originally published on August 7, 2023. Dates have since been updated to reflect the progression of time.
COLUMBUS, Ga. — The city manager’s office still has not delivered business licenses to many local owners for the 2023 calendar year, despite it now being September.
The licenses are required to be renewed every year through the city’s finance department.
Owners have since been operating the entire year without the proper licensing due to Hugley’s bureaucratic bottleneck.
During the city council meeting held on July 25, Councilor Judy Thomas (District 9) brought the subject up to Hugley directly. The move came shortly after councilors approved a new ‘top-down’ audit plan which made Hugley’s office next to be audited.
Thomas told Hugley that if there was a problem — which there most obviously is — that he must inform council about it:
“Mister City Manager, I want to bring something to your attention, if I may. I have had numerous contacts (from) businesses in Columbus — in Muscogee County — that have not received their 2023 business license yet. We're almost to the eighth month, and they haven't gotten their business license. Would you look into that and give us a report on what's happening and what we can expect? And I mean, as I said, we're almost in August and these business licenses have not been issued. And I know of a number of businesses specifically that have not received their 2023 business license. So if there's a problem with that, we need to know.”
Hugley responded with the following:
“We will follow up with you.”
Hugley’s single-sentence reply abstained from any further elaboration.
It is unclear how the manager of a city did not have any readily-available explanation for why the majority of business licenses were now eight months late, in the city he himself is responsible for managing.
Hugley’s evasive response appeared to avoid the subject either out of ignorance or as an attempt to suppress after being caught off-guard — both of which demonstrate a lack of awareness on a subject that the manager of a literal city ought to already be aware of.
As reported by the Muckraker on July 11, the city’s FY2023 Financial Snapshot Summary shows occupational tax revenue underperformed budgeted projections by an abysmal 60%.
Though the city had budgeted to raise $14.5 million from occupational taxes, it only raised $5,882,289 — an amount only 40% of what was expected, leaving a 60% underperformance.
Perhaps city officials ought to look into how that happened, along with how it may tie in with Hugley’s office not delivering business licenses despite it already being the ninth month of the calendar year.
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
© 2023 Muscogee Muckraker. All rights reserved.
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