NEWS- Sticky subject: Scrape those City decals, or else!

In Januarys past, Charlottesville residents have dutifully paid their $25 decal fee and pasted the colorful new sticker on their car windshield next to the ugly yellow and black inspection numbers. And woe unto anyone caught without it– citizens missing their windshield sticker were ticketed as if they had committed a moving violation.

 But that yearly ritual came unstuck in October 2005 when City Council voted to do away with decals in favor of adding a "vehicle license fee" to personal property tax bills, even though the change means roving police officers won't have a way of knowing which motorists have paid the tax and which haven't.

Hypothetically, someone could move from a Virginia locality that also does not require stickers– Lee Richards in the city treasurer's office says "many" places in Virginia have abandoned that system– and no Charlottesville officials would have any way of knowing about– or taxing– the sticker-free ride.

But City spokesperson Ric Barrick says that scenario is unlikely as the new electronic taxing method "follows the resident and their ownership for five years, creating better tracking and more accountability." He also points out that the city works with the DMV to withhold registration of vehicles whose taxes are unpaid.

And far from representing a potential loss in revenue for city coffers from motorists who don't pay, several changes in the program mean residents will be paying more under the new sticker-free system. In addition to the savings to the city in the printing and processing costs of the decals, under the new plan, vehicles are assessed on their average "trade-in value" rather than the previously used (and lower) "average loan value," according to the city treasurer's office.

Albemarle County residents still have to purchase a decal, but according to Joe Correa, Albemarle's division manager of revenue and taxation, the $25-per-annum sticker is good for the life of the vehicle, eliminating all that pesky scraping and pasting in January. 

In the city, anyone who attempts to slide by without paying the fee, Richards says, will find that when the dodge is finally discovered, the vehicles will be taxed on their full value rather than the discounted tax negotiated by former Governor Jim Gilmore.

Lest anyone worry that this might mean fewer things for police officers to ticket when they pull over motorists, fear not. Now Charlottesville drivers can be ticketed for still having an old sticker on the windshield.

Got one of these? Get rid of it!