So much for one of Mayor Alan Webber’s initiatives to move Santa Fe into the 21st century.
Merchants who need to take out a business license or renew one won’t be able to use a web URL by the March 13 deadline.
Instead, they’ll have to do an IRL: in real life.
“The city is not currently able to offer the convenience of online business renewals as the city is currently upgrading a data system that was more than 20 years old,” city spokeswoman Lilia Chacon said in an email Friday.
“The old system is being decommissioned and all the data is being transferred to the new system called EnerGov,” she wrote. “We expect the renewals to be available online by July of this year.”
That means business owners will have to physically go to City Hall to obtain a business license or renew an existing license in person.
“Between now and the 13th, in order to waive penalty, I guess we all have to pile into Santa Fe City Hall to pay our business registration license renewals, which is just ridiculous,” said a local business owner who requested anonymity.
Business owners started receiving letters this week informing them that all new business license registrations and 2020 business license renewals must be processed at City Hall, 200 Lincoln Ave.
“We are working to build a more convenient license renewal process and a quicker customer payment experience,” the city wrote on its business registration page online. “Our new EnerGov automated license processing system will be fully active in the summer 2020. This means you will be able to renew your 2021 business licenses from the comfort of your office by completing an online form.”
The city has previously said the transition to EnerGov represents a major shift toward becoming a more user-friendly government.
“The implementation of EnerGov and its associated software will give staff the tools necessary to respond to critical issues in real-time and provide constituents with an enhanced overall customer service experience,” the city has said.
Rich Brown, the city’s economic development director, said he had anticipated being able to use EnerGov for business licensing by now.
“We were on the assumption that we were going to able to use the new system for our licensing process, but it turned out that the data was not clean, and we couldn’t turn back because we were decommissioning the old system,” he said.
The city has assigned additional staff to deal with the in-person, paper-based registration system and is offering one hour of free parking at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center garage with validation to people going to City Hall to take out or renew a license.
The city initially said business owners could also renew a license by making a copy of their old license and sending it in the mail to the city with a check for $35. But Brown said that method is highly discouraged.
“Some of the businesses have fire licenses that need renewal and the old system didn’t put the fire renewal license in, so we’re not encouraging folks to really mail in their old license … because a portion of them owe a fire fee,” he said.
Brown said the City Council soon will consider an ordinance that would tie license renewals to the date they were issued.
“We’re going to move to a rolling renewal system, which allows the business owner to have the convenience of using their issuance date as their renewal date,” he said, adding that he’s confident the governing body will approve the ordinance.
About 2,400 businesses of the estimated 6,000 that register or renew annually have already obtained their 2020 licenses, Brown said.
Liz Camacho, the city’s economic development manager, said the city increased its business outreach to try to inform business owners they had to register or renew in person.
“There are a lot of unforeseen challenges in this transition and to compensate for that we tried to generate awareness by doing a bigger campaign than we have done in the past,” she said.