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Loudoun County considers taking over town tax bills, scrapping windshield decals

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors’ finance committee plans to look into whether the county's windshield decal program should be removed and vehicle license fees should be hiked from $25 to $30 to offset revenue loss as a result of eliminating the decals.

The sudden reconsideration of the decades-long program was prompted by Treasurer Roger Zurn (R), a longtime supporter of the decals.

The move comes as Zurn and Commissioner of Revenue Robert Wertz (R) are considering taking on the billing, collection and administration of personal and real property taxes for seven Loudoun County towns.

Currently, town residents receive a tax bill from the county and from their respective town with different due dates and payment methods, a process Zurn said has caused quite a bit of confusion. Changing the current system would allow town residents to receive one bill for both county and town taxes.

However, by adding the towns to the billing and collection system, Zurn said the county would be taking on roughly 59,560 new personal property accounts and 20,462 parcels. Zurn said the increase in accounts would simply make it impossible for the county to continue the decal program.

“We’ve done a great job in terms of administering the decals,” Zurn said. “It’s not an easy process ... to add roughly 60,000 accounts to that makes, it an absolute administrative nightmare that we just cannot handle.”

By doing away with decals and instead raising the license fee, Zurn said projections show the fee would prevent a loss in revenue. However, in the event potential revenue losses associated with nixing the decals occurs, staff say raising the license fee from $25 to $30 would generate about $1.5 million in new revenue beyond the anticipated $7.4 million the county would collect in fiscal 2019 under the current program structure.

But the process of bringing the towns into the system would require more than just nixing the decals.

Zurn walked the board through a tricky process that would require enabling legislation from the General Assembly to allow the county to embark on the new system and for the county to be compensated for the service; memorandums of understandings negotiated and executed between the towns and Zurn to set forth conditions of the new process; having participating towns enact an ordinance or resolution granting the treasurer authority to bill and collect real and personal property taxes owed to the towns; the towns amending their tax related ordinances and business processes; and the Board of Supervisors then adopting a resolution to allow the treasurer to begin the new process in the event enabling legislation is enacted.

The endeavor would also come with several additional costs, like a $233,000 annual need related to additional staff and operating and maintenance of the reprogramming. To offset the anticipated costs that would be incurred by the treasurer’s office, Zurn proposed a 1 percent fee to the office on behalf of the towns.

Several supervisors expressed concern over raising the license fee. Others said they had talked to town representatives who did not seem on board with the plan.

“I have a big problem with taking the decal fee from $25 to $30, and that sounds kind of $5 so what -- but let me explain why,” Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said. “If I’m reading the packet correct, we’re anticipating losing some revenue because people won’t comply as quick, correct?”

Zurn said Buona was correct, however, noted that the board could keep the fee at $25.

The vice chairman pointed out that the reason the $5 increase was being proposed was to make up for the lost revenue and that by doing so, the county would be asking people who comply to pay more to cover the people who are not complying.

“I’m only one vote, but I can’t put the burden on people that are doing the right thing to cover the people that aren’t doing the right thing,” Buona said. “We have to find a way to enforce one way or another.”

Other supervisors thought the issue of taking over work for the towns and the decals were two separate issues and wondered why the treasurer was bringing such a robust item to the board at the last minute.

Zurn said if the board did not do away with the decals by July 1, the process would be delayed by at least a year.

“I want to be convinced that we actually will have that revenue coming in on the back end, that there will be enabling legislation, that there actually will be towns that will sign up before we do that because otherwise ... we will lose revenue and we won’t have any way to make it up,” said Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), who also chairs the finance committee.

Ultimately, supervisors voted unanimously to send the item to the finance committee for more work.


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @sydneykashiwagi.

Comments


I’m not sure I understand this.  They are bring in 60k new accounts at $25 a pop ($1.5m) per year at a cost to the county of $233k so they have to increase the amount from $25 to $30 to cover the loss?


There is no way our county government is going to do away with those worthless stickers, if for no other reason than it makes too much sense.  The next thing we know somebody will be trying to convince us they’re trying to do something really ridiculous like build a road!


Do new cars really need a safety inspection every year or couldn’t safety inspections start after 5 years or so? Can’t they be bi-annual at least?
Let’s do more to take our time back from unneeded bureaucratic processes!


I’m not sure why window decals are even needed. The county already knows who hasn’t paid their bill. They also have the power of Government to zap somebody’s income if they don’t pay.

Do we really need LCSO looking for expired tax stickers? And if we really need LCSO patrolling the streets for tax evaders, they can use computerized license plate scanners as they drive down the road to alert them if some vehicle hasn’t paid.

Time to get rid of the stickers.

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