The city of Vancouver estimated it could be losing about $317,937 annually due to drivers who live in Washington but have vehicles registered in another state.
That money could be used to improve the city’s streets, from filling potholes to fixing cracked sidewalks.
In December 2015, the city created a Vancouver Transportation Benefit District and a new $20 license tab renewal fee. New Washington residents must register their car within 30 days of moving. But it appears many people could be cutting into the city’s profits by ignoring the renewal fee.
A crew of volunteers recently fanned out across the city, targeting residential neighborhoods, looking for out-of-state plates. Certain neighborhoods had more out-of -state vehicles than others, with the biggest offender being Fourth Plain Village.
The approximately 170 volunteers managed to observe 17, 395 vehicles citywide. The volunteers discovered that about 1,679, or nearly 10 percent, had out-of-state plates. Since there are a variety of factors, such as whether people are simply visiting, the data represent a rough metric to give the city councilors some insight into how big the problem could be.
The volunteers left a message for those drivers, reminding them of the rules and the possibility of a $529 fine if they fail to register.
Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain told city councilors on Monday night that enforcement is difficult, particularly with limited resources.
City Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said she volunteered one day, walking up and down the streets and placing the friendly flyers with a reminder in car windows. She’s ready to go back and ramp it up with the volunteers again.
She suggested putting the information on a spreadsheet, gathering the information, returning in another three months and giving the information to the police department to take a look at it.
“We have a lot of excited … volunteers (who want to) help support the police department but also the street funding package,” she said.
Washington State Patrol also has a program monitoring those with out-of-state registrations.
In February, the Vancouver City Council approved a package of tax and fee hikes to increase funding for the city’s police department, a move that will add 61 positions to the department by 2020.
The money will allow the police department to fill gaps that were created during the recession when cuts were made. Mayor Tim Leavitt asked Monday if that wouldn’t help beef up enforcement. Chief McElvain said it could, but not right away. The mayor suggested the local police partner with WSP to start cracking down on offenders sooner.
But the city is still holding out hope many of its residents will voluntarily comply.
Registering properly is not only important for tax purposes but is also important if the vehicle is involved in another crime or a hit-and-run.