Archive for: January 20th, 2018

Local Government
Town still pondering how to implement state vehicle tag mandate
January 20, 2018
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To decal or not to decal? – Liaison committee ponders costs of state mandate to move municipal vehicle decals with inspection stickers. Photo/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – Following Front Royal-Warren County Liaison Meeting discussion on January 18, the Town remains undecided on how to maintain its vehicle licensing program. However, Warren County will issue new decals to facilitate a state mandate on moving their location by January 1, 2019. Both the Town and County have gone to issuing permanent decals that a renewal fee is collected on annually, along with personal property taxes. Front Royal’s vehicle decals costs $25, Warren County’s the maximum $30 allowed by state law.

The County’s decision to eat the cost of issuing new decals is driven by its operation of trash compactor sites reserved for use by county residents. Display of the county decals on windshields provides an easy and efficient way to identify visitors to trash sites as county residents. As county residents, town citizens also can use those sites with the proof of town residence town decals provide.

Consideration of how to proceed with municipal vehicle licensing and decals is driven by a state mandate that inspection stickers be moved from the center of windshields to the left corner in the coming year. The change is being made to accommodate new accident-avoidance sensor technology that will be placed in the center of auto consoles or windshields.

And while the sensor technology will only be available in new vehicles, charged with enforcement the Virginia State Police have notified localities that ALL Virginia State Inspection stickers must be relocated to the left side of windshields by January 1, 2019. So, the process of that relocation begins this year. Consequently, municipal decals will have to make the move off center as well.

As for the County decision to mail out new vehicle decals, County Administrator Doug Stanley told the liaison committee how solid waste tonnage and corresponding disposal costs had decreased significantly when full-time monitoring at the county’s trash compactor sites was instituted.

The Town does not have a comparable monitoring situation. Its decal renewals are primarily used to monitor that citizen tax payments remain current and as a revenue stream. According to a memo from the county Commissioner of the Revenue there are 29,372 tagged vehicles in the county and another 14,183 inside the town limits.

Town staff has estimated a cost of $20,000 to $30,000 to issue new vehicle decals for the estimated 14,000 cars now carrying them on the center of windshields. That includes printing and mailing costs. However, Stanley said the County was estimating a cost of just $8,500 to mail out new decals. Town Finance Director B.J. Wilson wondered at that estimate considering the number of customers, decals, printing and mailing costs.

“That’s not bad,” Town Manager Joe Waltz observed of the County cost estimate; “But $30,000 concerns me,” he said of the estimate to achieve the decal replacement on the Town side.

Among options on the table for the Town are:

· No longer requiring an actual sticker, but continuing to collect the annual vehicle license fee. While the staff summary noted this method was becoming increasingly common around the commonwealth, it was noted thatwould create a problem on the County side as far as trash compactor site use;

· Provide new stickers upon payment of this year’s Town Personal Property Taxes. This option is the one carrying the $20,000 to $30,000 cost estimate;

· Require town citizens to purchase a new decal when they pay their personal property tax in 2018. A current town code allows replacement decals to be purchased for one dollar if the old one is proved to have been “lost, mutilated or illegible,” otherwise a full or pro-rated fee must be paid.

Mayor Tharpe noted that if the Town did abandon issuing new decals, it could alert town drivers that they would have to get a county decal in order to use county trash compactor sites. Contacted later, Stanley said a “waste” site decal would cost just five dollars.

According to the Commissioner of the Revenue numbers, the County currently generates about $870,000 in annual revenue from vehicle licensing fees, the Town about $350,000.

Local News
What happens to your Social Security check in wake of federal shutdown?
January 20, 2018
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Even though a government shutdown began at midnight Friday, those who receive Social Security checks will still receive them as usual. /File photo.

WARREN COUNTY –With the federal government effectively closed down less than 12 hours later, a Social Security expert provided timely and good news for many area residents Friday, January 19, at a noon service club luncheon.

Invited for a second visit in a year by the Rotary Club of Front Royal, Arlington financial planner Matt Ward zeroed in on Social Security benefits, specifically on what may happen to them IF the government was closed down by a failure to approve a federal budget by midnight Friday. Many “pensioners” – and Warren County has many pensioners – worried that with a government closure threatening, their benefits would cease, at least temporarily.

Of course, at midnight Friday, on a 51-49 U.S. Senate vote, the federal government was, indeed, closed indefinitely.

Answering a question from his appreciative audience and amid laughter and applause, Ward said loudly and assuredly: “NO! your Social Security benefits will NOT stop. You will continue to receive them without interruption “and forever! Social Security benefits are NOT affected at any point by government closures!

Ward otherwise stuck to his prepared script which was devoted entirely to Social Security. At the outset he asked Rotarians and others to pose questions that they most definitely wanted answered in his allotted time frame. Complicated as many were, answer them he did, earning himself a long, hearty applause rarely heard for a guest speaker at a regular Rotary meeting at Houlihan’s Restaurant on Route 522 North. The luncheon was, as always, open to the public.

The second of four questions from the floor regarded the consequence of the pending government closure on the Social Security retirement program – specifically, “Will we continue to receive our checks?”

Other answers that he wove into his speech (or lecture) were more convoluted and often were prefaced with “it depends.” One of those, for example, was, when potential retirees first see the three main options they must consider before collecting that first check: should you (a) start collecting early (b) start at full retirement age (66) or (c) start up to a few years after full retirement age. The answer, “It depends…” followed by 10 minutes of pros and cons including betting on longevity, considering spousal benefits, tax consequences, and the role social benefits would play in one’s total retirement income.

The areas covered in an always entertaining and educational talk are contained in a handout Ward provided titled “Social Security Savvy.”

For official information on Social Security, you may go to the Social Security website, “Understanding the Benefits” 2016.

He also appeared to recommend seeking a local, respected financial advisor well before retirement age.

Finally, however, Ward left the definitive answer to the question so many of us were asking ourselves when the federal government closed down at midnight last night – and the answer was “No!”

The checks will keep coming.

Jenspiration
Freedom Unmasked – Meet the Leaders
January 20, 2018
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Get to know the leaders of Freedom as they introduce themselves! They will share memories from last year and hopes for 2018.  Listen to lessons learned on the mat and watch as the team cheer each other on as individuals face challenges during practice.  This is just episode 1 of many.  Follow the journey of Freedom as they prepare for competitions and improve their routine every week!

Background: We have a cheer gym here in Front Royal that is doing some amazing things.  Each week Jenspiration goes out to film the cheer squad, Freedom, in action during practice.  The videos are authentic and show real situations the team experience. They do not always agree but work together to resolve disagreements.   The athletes know, working “together” they can accomplish anything!  Divided they are limited….

All Star Legacy Front Royal is a positive program for our children to experience tumbling and cheer at all ages and levels.  Watch the real stories of Freedom Unmasked on the Royal Examiner!

“FREEDOM” isn’t FREE, it’s paid for by many. – a reminder from Coach Rogers

#positiveathletes

Created by Jenspiration, LLC

State News
Governor Northam Statement on Federal Government Shutdown
January 20, 2018
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RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam released the following statement today after Congress failure to pass a measure to outline a long-term funding solution for the federal government and prevent a shutdown.

Virginia cannot afford this dysfunction. Last night Congress demonstrated that it would rather play political games than give millions of Americans, many of whom live in Virginia, the certainty they deserve about their paychecks, their health care and many other important issues.

“Last night’s abdication of leadership also leaves nearly 69,000 Virginia children who rely on CHIP funding for health care, as well hundreds of thousands DACA recipients, hanging in the balance. As damaging as a shutdown will be to Virginia’s economy, stop-gap measures to renew the government’s funding every 30 days are nearly as unsustainable and put whole sectors of our economy at risk, including our military and government contractors.

“As Virginia’s governor, no one is more sensitive to the fact that our economy is uniquely exposed to what happens in Washington. This shutdown puts Virginia jobs and economic activity at risk. It’s past time for leaders in Washington to get their act together and come to an agreement on a long-term funding solution for the federal government.”

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Six mistakes to avoid for a super-special birthday party
January 20, 2018
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Would you like to throw a memorable party for your child’s upcoming birthday? For a snag-free celebration, don’t make these common party planning mistakes:

1. Inviting the whole neighborhood: keep the guest list as short as possible to avoid ending up in charge of a flock of overexcited children, especially if you’re the sole supervisor.

2. Sending last-minute invitations: send out your invitations at least two weeks before the party to give yourself and other parents enough time to prepare.

3. Planning too many activities: don’t get carried away with a jam-packed schedule. Two or three fun activities—a magic show, a treasure hunt, an arts and crafts project—will be more than enough to keep everyone occupied.

4. Not considering allergies: better safe than sorry, as they say. Ask invitees’ parents if their children have any allergies or other dietary restrictions and plan your menu accordingly.

5. Letting the party drag on: so much excitement will have your pint-sized guests tuckered out faster than you might think. Three hours is a good length for a kids’ birthday party.

6. Having no plan B: if the party is set to take place mostly outdoors, make sure you have an alternative in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Kid-approved options include a trip to a museum or to an indoor playground.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Wasting the time of email scammers
January 20, 2018
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The average person deals with an incredible amount of email throughout their workday and having to deal with email spam and scammers can add further frustration to the experience. According to Engadget, a company called Netsafe has created a service named ‘Re: scam’ that embraces the spirit of nagging emails by replying to scammers automatically to waste as much of their time as possible.

Driven by multiple bots that each have their own character persona, scammers will be treated to endless replies filled with seemingly benign questions and sometimes hilarious stories. Representatives from the company claim that they have handled up to 1,000 concurrent email exchanges at one point and their record sits at 20 replies.