This might be the last year that you have to put a sticker on your windshield from the county or town (unless you live in Purcellville or Hamilton.)
The Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has recommended the county stop requiring windshield decals for cars in Loudoun. If, as the county is considering, the county takes over the work of tax billing and collections for many of the towns, that could also mean no more stickers in those towns that require them. Only Hamilton and Purcellville have indicated they’re not interested in handing tax collection off to the county.
Treasurer Roger Zurn has been longtime holdout on vehicle decals, arguing if they go away, it will be harder for the county to determine who has paid the vehicle license fee and been assessed for property tax on the vehicle.
But with the county working toward taking over the work of billing and collecting taxes from the towns, Zurn said his staff wouldn’t be able take on the additional workload of the stickers.
Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said he has wanted to get rid of the vehicle decal since he took office six years ago—but was always dissuaded by Zurn.
County staffers were unable to put an exact number on how much money would be lost to reduced compliance without decals. Estimates ranged from an admittedly unrealistic $5.6 million worst-case scenario, to about $600,000 counting the savings from eliminating Project Fairness, which has deputies assigned exclusively to enforcing the window sticker requirement.
Between the cost of administering the decal program, printing and mailing the stickers, and running Project Fairness, the window stickers are estimated to cost the county about $430,000 a year.
County staff members report Project Fairness brought in about $100,000 annually in fines, and recovered $60,000 in license fee revenue and $897,000 in vehicle personal property tax revenue in fiscal year 2016. But Commissioner of the Revenue Bob Wertz said he could conceivably expand some of the enforcement work his office does for business taxes to vehicle taxes to help close the gap left by shuttering Project Fairness. He has not yet worked up a cost estimate for doing that.
That would also free up two deputies to be transferred to other departments in the Sheriff’s Office. And supervisors and Wertz say there are other, more modern tools available to help find out who’s paying their taxes.
“I think one of my biggest issues is, I don’t believe law enforcement should be in the process or in the habit of doing tax collecting,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “I don’t think that’s the role of law enforcement.”
“The bottom line for me is that this is an annual pain in the rear for everybody in the county, and I do put a value on people’s time,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge). “I think they would appreciate if we get rid of this for them. I think that we could do it without costing the county too much money in revenue, and if we find out down the road that it is costing us money and revenue, then we could maybe bump up the fee.”
The decal fee of $25 would still be collected as a vehicle license fee. Project Fairness would wind down at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, 2018.
The board is scheduled to take a final vote on doing away with window stickers on July 20. The unanimous vote of the five-member finance committee represents a majority on the board, and no board members have stood up to defend the program.