City to add vehicle license fee

Published 8:51 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

FRANKLIN—Franklin residents won’t have to put city decals on their vehicles next year, but they will still pay the fee. Monday night, the City Council approved the implementation of a vehicle license fee to replace the decal fee next year.

The council voted last year to eliminate the decals, which bring in about $150,000 in revenue annually. Under the motion adopted, the vehicle license fee will be the same as the decal fee — but since it won’t be prorated as the decals are, it could generate an additional $65,000 in revenue.

However, council members said that they don’t want to collect an additional $65,000 from residents. The council will explore options during the budget process to offset the additional revenue, including dropping the tax rate or lowering the per-vehicle fee.

The vehicle license fee will be added to personal property tax bills that are due on Dec. 5 each year.

Brenda Rickman, Franklin’s commissioner of the revenue, said “all of the Hampton Roads localities have eliminated decals,” but some didn’t add a vehicle license fee because “they increased their tax rate to compensate…we don’t have that luxury.”

Franklin’s charter limits the city to a personal property tax rate of $4.50. Raising it would require approval from the General Assembly.

To ensure license fees are paid, Rickman said the treasurer’s office could issue a stop through the Department of Motor Vehicles, which allows localities to place a stop, or block, on the property tax bill account of residents who have not paid vehicle decal fees or personal property tax bills in full. It prevents a vehicle owner from renewing license tags, driver’s licenses and other actions.

The council also discussed the possibility of allowing twice a year billing for personal property taxes.

“We’ve had several people to ask about it,” Rickman said. “It’s something doable and I know other localities in our area have done twice a year billing.”

Several council members expressed support for twice a year billing.

“I haven’t had anyone ask, but common sense is telling me that I would want it,” Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said.

Councilman Benny Burgess also said that personal property tax bills could be sent out a few months earlier and be paid in installments.

Mayor Jim Councill said twice a year billing and Burgess’ idea are both “worth looking at,” but special attention should be paid to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect the city’s cash flow.

“We feel obligated to help people budget their resources, that’s really the bottom line here,” said City Manager June Fleming.