ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tens of thousands of Albuquerque businesses owe the city money—close to a million dollars in unpaid fees. A new report shows this and also stated the city is now trying to collect.

When the pandemic hit, the city let businesses stop paying registration fees to help them survive. However, now those fees are due. More than 23,000 invoices were sent out to ask local businesses to pay up.

“We don’t know that they’re operating without their registration. I have a team that consists of myself, one business registration specialist, and three planning assistants, and that’s it for the entire city,” said ABQ Planning Department Business Registration Supervisor Maria Tena.

Albuquerque’s Planning Department has the gargantuan task of keeping tabs on every businesses operating within the city.

Tena explained that it’s hard to search and see which businesses are active due to the large number, which is over 100,000.

A recent audit looked at five years of data from the city’s business registration program. Not only did it find business owners are failing to register and pay fees to the city, but lots of businesses already in the system may have the wrong information. Out of a random sample of a hundred businesses, the city found as many as 21 weren’t paying city business fees.

“We don’t have the manpower to go and inspect,” Tena said.

From those hundred businesses, the city lost out on more than $2,000. However, total losses could be a lot more from the business community overall. Between 2018 and 2022, the planning department collected nearly $3 million in registration fees. A chart in the audit shows they collected around $700,000 a year.

“We need to re-look at the possibility of expanding our department to be able to be capable of sustaining and maintaining and being able to go out and look at businesses that aren’t registered and kind of catching them in the act,” Tena stated.

The city now said any business with past due fees has until the end of the year to pay. They’re hoping an ongoing upgrade to planning department systems will help them keep better track of businesses that aren’t registered or up to date.