Vehicle Decals



To set a public hearing to consider a proposed ordinance to amend County Code Chapter 9, Motor Vehicles and Traffic, Article I, In General, and Article IV, County Vehicle Licenses to eliminate the County vehicle decal requirement.



Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Herrick, Wiggans, Correa





November 5, 2008


ACTION:     X          INFORMATION: 












Virginia Code § 46.2-752 enables localities to license vehicles and to impose a vehicle license tax.  Traditionally, most localities did so by issuing annual vehicle decals.  However, while still licensing vehicles, many localities are replacing annual decals with permanent decals, or are doing away with vehicle decals altogether.  At its December 5, 2005 meeting, the Board revised the vehicle decal requirement from an annual to a permanent issuance.  Since 2005, a growing number of localities have eliminated vehicle decals altogether as a convenience to their citizens. Decals are not legally necessary for the County to maintain or enforce its vehicle license requirement.  As a practical matter, enforcement of the County’s decal requirements has become less of a priority and has grown increasingly difficult since the City of Charlottesville eliminated its vehicle decal requirement in 2005. 



Goal 5:  Fund the County’s future needs. 



The attached proposed ordinance retains the County vehicle license requirement and tax but eliminates the existing legal requirement that a decal be displayed.  Proposed Section 9-401 clarifies that it is the failure to obtain a license, not the failure to display a decal that is unlawful. Consistent with state enabling authority, this section would also make the failure to obtain a license a Class 4 misdemeanor.  While Section 9-408 would still require all personal property taxes to be paid before a license was issued, Section 9-401 would no longer require a vehicle license before a Court fine could be discharged.


While the proposed ordinance would eliminate vehicle decals, many existing procedures would remain unchanged for vehicle licenses. Residents with a vehicle normally garaged, stored or parked in the County would still be required to maintain a County vehicle license.  The annual license tax would still be billed and paid together with the first-half personal property taxes. Purchasers of new vehicles and new residents of the County would still be required to obtain a County vehicle license within thirty (30) days of purchase or of their move into the County.  Proration practices would remain unchanged under the new ordinance. 


Although vehicle decals historically have been used as a tool to identify vehicles with a County situs, DMV records now serve the same purpose.  Those records now provide the most up-to-date information regarding new residents of the County and the purchase of new vehicles by County residents.  Various other methods are also used to identify vehicles subject to a County license tax (see Attachment B).      


This ordinance is being proposed primarily as a convenience to the citizens.  Over 50 Virginia localities, including some of the largest jurisdictions in the state (such as Fairfax County, Richmond, Roanoke, Henrico County, Portsmouth and Suffolk) no longer require decals (see Attachment C).  Most of these localities have experienced virtually no change in tax collection percentages twelve months after the elimination of the decal.



If this ordinance is adopted, vehicle decals would no longer be issued beginning in 2009.  The County issued 15,353 decals during the first nine months of 2008.   Under the proposed ordinances, the labor-intensive task of issuing and

mailing vehicle decals would be eliminated. Staff estimates that at least 20,000 decals would be issued in 2009 and that approximately $14,800 would be saved in the cost of the decals, envelopes and postage in 2009 if decals were eliminated.  In addition, there would be a savings in staff time to issue decals.  It is not anticipated that there will be any significant impact on the collections.



Staff recommends that the Board set a December 3, 2008 public hearing for the attached ordinance.



A - Ordinance

B - Enforcement Methods

C - Localities That Have Eliminated Decals

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