No one likes paying taxes. And certainly no one likes being audited and then finding out there are even more taxes to pay. Penalties even.
Essentially, that’s what has been going on in Riverside the past few months, as folks who – either accidentally or purposefully – did not buy vehicles stickers during the past three years are located. The village has found a way to track just which vehicles registered in the village don’t have the stickers. And, boy, is it teeing off people.
The village has said the crackdown is not about money, just about fairness. Let’s be honest; it’s about both. Certainly the village is looking to boost revenues as other sources have dipped in the past couple of years. To say that the sticker-enforcement policy isn’t part of that effort would be disingenuous.
However, it is certainly also about fairness. Talk about increasing revenues, and you’re likely to hear someone blurt out, “Well if all those people without village stickers bought them …”
It’s true. For some to duck the tax (that’s what it is, after all), while others are dutifully paying it, is patently unfair. Anyone in Riverside who ducked buying vehicle stickers because they knew the village didn’t police scofflaws very strictly in the past really has no argument. The village even offered an amnesty (still very much in effect, by the way, at adjudication hearings) that was very well publicized in the paper, on the village Web site and on signs planted all over town earlier this year.
The tough part comes when it turns out that the vehicle in question, while registered to a Riverside address, is housed elsewhere, is inoperable or had been junked or sold.
Certainly there should be ways to deal with these kinds of vehicles and spare their owners the expense of a vehicle sticker. The funds collected by the tax, after all, are supposed to go toward road repairs. If those vehicles aren’t putting any wear and tear on village streets, it’s hard to argue they ought to be taxed.
On the other hand, there’s no way for village officials to know the circumstances of each vehicle without some sort of documentation. However, it seems as if there ought to be some way of dealing with these kinds of issues short of doing it at an adjudication hearing, where people have to take time out of their work days to do so.
If the documentation is available, it should be able to be handled at a staff level – the staff person responsible for tracking the collections ends up at the adjudication hearings anyway.
There’s no need to bring every single one of these cases before an adjudicator, unless an agreement between the village and vehicle owner can’t be reached. It would seem that trusting the judgment of village staff before some of these matters go to adjudication would save time, money and aggravation all around.