Grayson sticks with vehicle decals

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Residents of Grayson County can forget having a cleaner windshield to look out after supervisors opted not to remove county decals this year — but a new design may be looming.

Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet recommended the board not remove the decal after having conversations with City of Galax officials.

Galax removed its decals last year, and city leaders told Sweet that they didn't fully evaluate the ramifications.

In extensive discussions, Sweet learned there were a variety of challenges the county would face in the future and that the city officials would “advise against it.”

Sweet added that, typically, there are three options with the decals:

• keep decal and fee.

• remove decal and fee.

• remove decal and keep fee.

Obviously, removing the decal and the fee would pose significant problems in the county budget, and that revenue would have to be made up somewhere else — most likely in the form of additional tax increases.

In discussions with Galax, Sweet said the revenue challenges the city have faced include residents not paying their personal property tax on time.

While the county would be able to put a stop on a citizens renewing their license plates at the Department of Motor Vehicles, more and more people are buying tags for two years at a time, instead of just one.

In other words, people know they can wait two years to pay their personal property tax, without the penalty affecting them.

Typically, people are encouraged to pay their personal property taxes when they purchase their decal yearly and are more apt to pay the fee on time if they are required to have the sticker on their windshield.

If they don't have a current sticker, they run the risk of getting a ticket from law enforcement.

But without the sticker, citizens may push the envelope more on paying both the fee and their taxes.

Supervisors' Chairman Mike Maynard said that, in conversations with Galax Mayor C.M. Mitchell, he was told the city was unpleasantly surprised with the shortfall of revenue from the decals when they removed them.

Maynard said Mitchell told him the city was considering putting the decal back in place because the revenue shortfall was so significant.

Sweet added that his recommendation to the board would be “if it's not broke, don't fix it.”

In this case, he said, the decal program isn't broke.

The county could increase the fee to make up gaps in revenue, but Sweet felt completely removing the decal was not the solution.

Sweet said that if the county wanted to reevaluate the idea next year, he would be glad to look at ways to remove the fee and the decal and make the revenue up somewhere else — such as an increase in personal property taxes.

While it is a minor incentive to keep the stickers, Sweet added that it does provide free advertisement wherever Grayson County residents go.

“They've got Grayson County on their windshield,” he said, noting that it sometimes sparks a discussion and could lead to someone visiting the county.

Of course that shouldn't be a determining factor in keeping or removing the decal, Sweet continued, but having it in place does provide some intangible benefits.

Sweet then suggested that the county do as Bland County did and try and change the decal to increase community pride.

While serving as Bland's county administrator, Sweet helped create a logo and slogan for the county decals and said that folks received it very well. “There are things we can do to make that decal less abrasive.”

Maynard then said that a decision had to be made and asked the board what their pleasure was.

Vice Chairman Larry Bartlett concurred that it sounded like a bad idea. What he heard from Galax concerned him greatly.

“So we've come to a conclusion that we don't want to change the process, but only the amount,” Maynard questioned.

The board agreed, and Supervisor Doug Carrico motioned to amend the current ordinance to increase all fees that were $20 (cars and trucks) to $25 and all fees that were $10 (motorcycles) to $15.

Supervisor Joe Vaughan seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.