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Treasurer seeks to eliminate county stickers

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If approved, the decals will be replaced by a fee, included on property taxes

By Shaina Stockton

INDEPENDENCE — Due to loss of revenue, paired with feedback from the community, Grayson County Treasurer Kelly Haga has suggested the elimination of decals for vehicles in the county, in exchange for a fee that will be easier to manage and enforce.
Haga presented this request to the Grayson County Board of Supervisors at their May 16 meeting.
In a memo to the board, Haga explained that the county’s decal sales in 2015 generated a revenue of $259,785. The expected revenue was $428,075. He further explained in the memo and at the meeting that the county had a total of 16,775 registered cars and trucks, and 580 motorcycles in 2015. However, they only collected payment for decals for 10,212 cars and trucks, and 259 motorcycles.
“This leaves $168,290 on the table uncollected without any meaningful way to encourage people to purchase a decal for all licensed vehicles,” he said.
According to Haga, Grayson County is one of the last localities in the state to use the decal program. Surrounding counties, now including the city of Galax, have swapped the program with a vehicle fee structure. “This presents a situation where many Grayson citizens do not feel the need to buy a decal, because they feel its presence isn’t being enforced,” Haga said.
Local law enforcement agencies have agreed in the past with adjoining localities to help police and enforce the presence of a decal on the car windshield; however, with the surrounding counties eliminating their decals altogether, Haga noted that most officers don’t even look for a sticker.
An approved fee structure to replace the decal program, Haga explained, would be assessed at the same time as personal property taxes. The fees would remain the same as the cost of the decals: $25 for cars and trucks, and $15 for motorcycles. While there is no real way to enforce the presence of a decal, a vehicle fee would be subject to DMV stops.
“Virginia State Code 46.2-752 allows localities to prevent anyone who has unpaid taxes or license fees from renewing their tags for the year. The tags cannot be released until all said taxes or fees are paid in full, including any fees associated with this process. This gives the county much stronger enforcement ability, namely because a decal is not subject to enforcement under the state code,” Haga said.
Furthermore, eliminating the stickers would cut the cost of purchasing the decals, as well as the bigger expense of printing and mailing out decal forms.
Haga recommended that they switch to the fee structure in tax year 2016.
Supervisor John Fant asked Haga if the Sheriff’s office gained any value with the decal system. Haga said that he hadn’t talked with Sheriff Richard Vaughan about the stickers for a few months, and invited the board to seek his input before considering the change.
“He will tell you that it does give you an extra visual cue. However, very few people like them. With the aggravation of having to take the extra time to come up here and buy a sticker, the majority have said, ‘Why not add this to my taxes instead?’”
The prime purpose of the decals is to generate revenue, which the fee would do a better job of accomplishing, said Haga.
County Administrator Jonathan Sweet told the board that the matter could be tabled for the June meeting, if needed.
“I think it would be helpful to hear the Sheriff’s input on this,” said Fant. He moved to table the request until June until they could hear an opinion from Sheriff Vaughan. The motion was seconded by Supervisor Eddie Rosenbaum, and approved unanimously by the board.