Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fredericksburg taxing train riders and recyclers

This year federicksburg took a step toward removing a defunct requirement for city decals. Unless of course you want to park in the city train station lot or if you want to use the recycling center! If you are one of the eco conscious or commuter friendly residents, its still business as usual, pay your $2 annually and get the sticker. Oh, wait, pay the $20 fee plus an EXTRA 2 for actally getting a physical sticker.

Does this make sense? Maybe. Does it make sense to do each and every year? I think I can prove there is a better way.

I spoke to the treasurer's office and they did take a look at these costs going into the year. They determined that by using annual stickers, they would prevent someone from moving from in the city to one of the nearby counties and still have access to the lot. Their concern was not so much this year or next, but erosion over time. They also decided to not use the decals with your plate # to help save cost.

Not knowing how many prole would purchase, the city ordered 2000 decals. The cost works out to about $0.72 each. At the time of this writing (4/2), we have sold less than 100. That is an actual cost of $14.40 per decal. Since the old ones haven't expired, let's assume a conservative estimate of 500, that's 3 times the number of VRE spaces. That's still $2.88 each. Figure in 15 minutes of time to visit the commissioner of revenue window and then the treasurer's office window. I estimate that even at $22 the city is loosing money on this setup.

Now repeat this activity each year, trow out the 1500 unused decals, maintain the staffing to continue to administer the decals. Pay the credit card processing fees for the $2 transactions.

Granted, on the surface, going to permanent decals only saves is $1440 a year. But dig a little deeper and the costs add up to more than that. The comment I've heard is that this whole problem goes back to the city being able to enforce tax collection. That problem exists whether or not we have a vre decal. That decision was forced on the city by other jurisdictions that deleted the decal. If we want to enforce tax collection, upload a list of delinquents to autochalk and start towing - bonus revenue in business taxes from the towing company!

What has resulted is an annual tax on those commuting on the train, and those people that want to use the city recycling center (which is also where you dispose of hazardous waste on April 19th).

What we need is a single permanent city decal tied to a single license plate. The owner will have to get a new decal if they but a new car, if they damage their sticker, or get new plates. All of these happen more often than buying a new home. The savings from being able to but in bulk should recoup the expense of the write on space quickly, and in future years the administration costs drop to near zero. Maybe in 5 years the city issues an updated sticker to clean up any freeriders.

Maybe that $1440 could go to someone's raise next year? Maybe that pays for a few more school books. This is just a drop in the bucket, how many more can the city find in a belt buckling budget year?

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