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.