2017 the last year for county decals
It’s been a rite of spring in Mecklenburg County for decades. Every spring you scrape the old decal from the windshield on your car and buy a new one. Before you can buy the new one, your taxes must be paid.
While that has been standard operating procedure in Mecklenburg for at least 50 years, 2017 is the last year citizens will have to buy a decal. Starting in 2018, the cost of the decal will be added to the December tax bill as a Vehicle License Fee. The cost will remain the same as it has been under the decal system at $25.
“The reason we’re doing it is that people have asked us to do away with it,” Mecklenburg County Treasurer Sandra Langford said, noting annual complaints about the decal system received by members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors. In response, a few years ago Chairman Glenn Barbour asked what could be done to get rid of decals.
In addition, scrapping the decal system will provide a cost savings for the county, since vendors will no longer be paid to sell them.
The switch did not happen as quickly as the supervisors had expected, however, after the localities around the county raised concerns about the change.
“The towns were fearful about their tax collections,” Langford said. “I understood that. We met with them in July and did a class with them to give them alternatives.”
Although the board of supervisors had planned to put the new plan into place earlier, based on the concerns of the towns, the supervisors delayed the adoption of the new system until towns had an opportunity to look at all the other collection options.
One of the biggest alternatives is what is known as a “DMV Stop.”
Under the Code of Virginia, treasurers have the authority to withhold state registrations for vehicles owned or co-owned by anyone with delinquent personal property taxes until those taxes are paid in full. In addition to paying the delinquent taxes, the property owner is charged an administrative fee of $30 and a DMV Stop fee of $20.
Although there are alternatives, many of the localities in Mecklenburg County expressed the opinion that the decal system had been in place for decades because it was proven to work.
In South Hill, Town Manager Kim Callis said the town would get along without the decal system.
“Decals were a very effective tool for us to collect property taxes,” said Callas. “We will look for other tools to make sure we collect the taxes due us.”
Callis said the town has been working with agencies including the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles on DMV Stops as well as the Virginia Department of Taxation on a program known as IRMS. According to Callis, the IRMS program essentially allows the Department of Taxation to put a lien on tax returns if there are outstanding tax bills.
Asked if he was aware of any problems with the alternative systems, Callis replied, “It’s too soon to say. I don’t know if we have anything as effective as the decals were, but onward and upward. We’re not going to let anything slow us down, and there are no sour grapes. Our job is to make sure we collect our taxes due. The decals were a very effective tool. We’ll find other tools and move along.”
Clarksville appears to feel much the same. Speaking last week, Town Manager Jeff Jones said his town is ready for the upcoming change.
“We have done some training,” said Jones. “The big issue for us is that the decals are a great tool to make sure the citizens have paid their property taxes. We’ve increased our training on debt service and DMV Stops. It takes about a year to work that in, but we started a while back, so that’s how we’ve been getting ready. It’s an ongoing process. The big issue is the DMV Stops. We’ve trained most of our people, and we’re ready. As ready as we’re going to be.”
Jones said there would be a slight adjustment needed on Clarksville’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“We’ll lose the small fee we’ve gotten for selling the decals,” said Jones. “We’ll have to adjust for that, but it comes to about $1,400 I think. It isn’t a huge amount.”
Jones confirmed that most citizens have not been upset to see the end of decals in the county.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments,” said Jones. “I’ve heard some folks say they’re glad. Especially some of our older citizens. They had a hard time getting the old stickers off. I don’t think they’re going to miss them.”
In Chase City, Town Treasurer Virginia Gray said this week that as the town is still in the budgeting process for this year and hasn’t finalized plans yet for collecting taxes next year. She added that Chase City has been using both DMV Stops and the Department of Taxation IRMA program for the last five years along with the current decal system.
As with other officials across the county, Gray said she feels the decal system was proven to be an effective system.
“It’s probably going to be a little more of a problem than having the decals too,” she said. “We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
In the meantime, Mecklenburg County residents have until the end of March to purchase their vehicle decals one last time.