There’s a good chance if you live in Brookfield and own some sort of motor vehicle that you received a letter from the village telling you that you were vehicle-sticker delinquent and owed them $50 plus a $20 late fee to come into compliance.
Some 5,200 letters to that effect hit local mailboxes on Feb. 11, and the village is giving vehicle owners until the end of March to get their 2022-23 vehicle stickers or face some other sort of penalty, which hasn’t been determined at this time.
“At the end of March, we’ll rerun the numbers and then talk with the police department about enforcement,” said Brookfield Finance Director Doug Cooper.
In 2023, Brookfield officials undertook an audit of vehicles registered to Brookfield addresses after seeing vehicle sticker revenues decline for three straight years.
According to Cooper, in 2019 the village collected $580,203 from the sale of vehicle stickers, revenue that is used to fund labor and materials for annual street maintenance, such as patching and salting during the winter.
In 2022, the village collected $524,631, a 10-percent overall decrease compared to 2019.
Following a similar audit done in January 2018, the village realized a $106,200 increase in vehicle sticker sales that summer compared to 2017. Vehicle sticker revenue went up slightly in 2019 due to an increase in the vehicle sticker fee, from $40 to $50.
But every year since, vehicle sticker revenue has fallen.
“Logic seems to suggest people are perhaps not buying the stickers they need to,” said Village Manager Timothy Wiberg at the Feb. 13 village board meeting.
The village did similar audits in 2012 and 2018, which netted additional revenue and vehicle information used to send out annual renewal notices.
Inevitably, the audit and subsequent mass mailing earlier this month resulted in some people getting letters in error, either because the vehicle flagged by the database was no longer in their possession or due to a data entry glitch that flagged vehicles that were actually in compliance.
For all three audits performed by the village in 2012, 2018 and 2023, Brookfield officials used vehicle registration information obtained from the Illinois Secretary of State. In 2012 and 2018, the village used a third party vendor to cross-reference the state data with local vehicle sticker data. That firm was paid about $2,100 to do that work in 2018.
This year, the village tasked its consultant from the GIS Consortium to perform the cross-referencing at no additional cost.
As was the case in the two previous audits, the Secretary of State information was not infallible, and officials expected to hear from residents who no longer owned the vehicles in question.
A particular wrinkle this time around, Wiberg told elected officials at their meeting on Feb. 13, was that if the person doing the data entry, for example, did not add spaces between license plate letters and numbers when one existed on a license plate, that registration would be flagged as a violation.
Wiberg asked residents who were sent violation notices because of that sort of error to call the village at 708-485-7344 and click Option 1 when the voice attendant prompts, so that staff can rectify the error.
“We have not found anything wrong with the data, it’s just that little vagary of the formatting,” Wiberg said.
It wasn’t clear just how many violation notices were sent due to that error. However, every member of the village board and the village clerk stated at their meeting that they’d incorrectly received letters regarding violations.
“I would say with the number of people that called in, that is the problem, that space,” Cooper told elected officials. “You’re talking about a vehicle sticker and people don’t want to pay that fee to begin with, and to have this on top of that it’s just adding frustration to the residents.”