Day-care providers in unincorporated Salt Lake County are objecting to a doubled-team effort by state and county inspectors, both of whom require fees that the providers say threaten to put them out of business.
About 130 providers who are licensed by the state recently received notices from the county telling them to get a county business license or else.For Genevieve Groesbeck, the notice was disconcerting. "It was kind of a scary letter," she said. "They said they were going to charge for fees I hadn't paid in previous years. I just about decided to give the whole thing up."
Instead, Groesbeck and several other women who normally spend their days tending toddlers spent much of Monday with the Salt Lake County Commission.
County officials said they were following normal procedures when they sent the notices. They learned that day-care providers didn't have county licenses only after receiving a list from the state of providers who had gotten state licenses.
Most of the providers tend six or fewer children and operate out of their homes. Day-care officials estimate as many as 200 more day-care centers operate without seeking even a state license.
When they buy state licenses, the providers are inspected. They don't understand why the county also has to inspect them.
If the county persists in requiring a license, "I can stand here and almost guarantee you these fees will either force the providers out of business or underground," said Linda Geigle, membership secretary for the National Association For Family Day Care. She predicted a day-care shortage in the unincorporated county.
But county commissioners agreed to arrange meetings between the providers and county officials, and they pledged to coordinate with the state as well. They even hinted they may discount the normal $35 yearly licensing fee.
However, they said they may have trouble explaining that to other people who start businesses at home.
"What do we tell the guy with the rain-gutter business next door?" said Commissioner Randy Horiuchi.
Geigle said the county would be making a statement about the worth of its children.
"The children in our community should be given a higher place than the person providing a rain-gutter service," she said. "You're making a stand For children."
Salt Lake County is granting amnesty during June to anyone operating a business of any kind without a license. During the month, business owners can get a license by paying only a normal one-year fee - no back fees or penalties. County officials estimate about 1,600 people are operating without a license in the unincorporated county.