Every year more than 99 percent of Loudoun County vehicle owners remove a sticky, adhesive registration decal from their front windshield. While many have complained about it, removing the need for stickers could cost the county up to $20 million a year.
The Board of Supervisors voted on Jan. 3 to research alternate solutions. Some suggestions include police scanners or collecting a fee associated with a license.
Fairfax and Prince William Counties have already done away with the sticker, and Loudoun is one of the last holdouts in the Commonwealth. Several supervisors shared anecdotes on how difficult it was to remove the sticker. Ron Meyer (R- Broad Run) asked if there was a way to make it less sticky.
“A lot of people can’t stand the county sticker. If there’s a way we can do it as efficient, or more efficient without it, I’m all for it,” Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said.
But facing a shortfall in the 2018 fiscal year budget, Supervisors are wary of unilaterally eliminating this revenue source.
“It’s a 30 second annoyance for literally millions of dollars,” said County Treasurer Rodger Zurn (R).
Vice-chair Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said he tried to do away with the program when he was first elected to the board six years ago but we persuaded not to pursue a change. He said the stickers get cars into the collection program quickly, which in turn spurns repeat renewals that continually generate revenue.
Zurn said the sticker is a large reason why 99 percent of Loudoun residents properly register their cars. He said it becomes a point of pride and accountability. Without a prominent display, Zurn fears collection rate would fall to between 92 and 94 percent. He estimates each lost percentage point costs the County around $2 million.
“Our track record, quite frankly in the entire Commonwealth, is one of the best,” Zurn said. “I’ve been doing this for 21 years. I’m telling you this will have a negative fiscal impact.”
Along with Zurn, the Board’s Finance Committee heard reports Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman ahead of the business meeting on Jan. 3. There Chapman questioned Zurn’s findings, saying Loudoun’s collection rate was only 96.8 percent and that Fairfax’s was 99.4 percent.
“I’m not against the program as we have it today,” Chapman told the finance committee. “I’m just not sure until we take a closer look until we see what other people are doing about it whether or not this is the best thing to do about it right now.”
Currently, collection efforts are aided by Project Fairness, a team of two Loudoun County Sheriff’s Deputies who patrol the county looking for expired or non-existent registrations. Zurn said the efforts from Project Fairness alone nets the county $1 million, which not only pays for the program but helps fund others.
Both members of Project Fairness are hired explicitly to work on the sticker program, but also go through the complete Sheriff’s Office training. As part of their discussions at the Jan. 3 meeting, supervisors are asking staff to evaluate the resources put into the program to see if financing complete training is necessary.
If the board decides to eliminate the decals, there would no longer be a need for Project Fairness.
“We just want to make sure that the board is aware that it could amount to as much as $20 million per year the board is no longer able to work with.” Zurn said.
He added the county is already using a new gluing process that is, in fact, making the stickers less sticky.
Update 1:15 Jan. 7:
This story has been updated to included Chapman’s comments at the Board of Supervisor’s Finance Committee’s Dec. 13 meeting