By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
In late June, it was announced that eligible driver’s license holders in Iowa could now renew online through the Iowa DOT’s website. While this new feature might make it handier for some, it could very well have a negative effect on county treasurer departments.
Jones County Treasurer Amy Picray has been vocal about the change, even sending her thoughts on to area Representatives and Senators. In an e-mail to Senator Dan Zumbach, Picray expressed her concerns for both SSB (Senate Study Bill) 1103 and 1020.
SSB 1103 is related to the period of validity of driver’s licenses and identification cards. SSB 1020 speaks to renewing one’s driver’s license online.
In her e-mail, Picray stated, “In the big picture, I am very concerned that the Department of Transportation is proposing several legislative changes that will shift revenues from counties that provide driver’s license services to the state.”
She explained that SSB 1103 would negatively impact county revenue. Right now, customers are issued a license for five years at a cost of $20. Counties receive $7 from that fee, or 35 percent. Picray said if the term were extended to eight years with a $32 fee, counties would still receive the $7, or 21.9 percent. So even if the fee goes up, the county’s revenue still remains the same.
“Over a 40-year time period, for each consumer, a county’s retention fee would drop from $56 to $35 per customer, while the state’s portion would jump from $104 to $125 per customer. As this example illustrates, the county is providing the service, but the state would see an increase in revenue while the county’s revenue declines,” Picray stated.
With the new law allowing for driver’s licenses to be renewed online, county treasurers would still see an impact, as the state would recoup all of that revenue from those online renewals. Even if someone in Jones County is trying to renew online, but calls Picray’s office with questions pertaining to the online renewal, the county receives nothing from the service.
“We’re providing a service for the state,” Picray said.
When people come into the Jones County Treasurer’s Office to renew their licenses (among the many services offered locally), staff can physically and visually assess whether someone may be fit to have a license. Picray said with the extended license term, so much time could go by.
“A lot can happen to that person in, say, 16 years,” Picray said.
While online renewal is convenient for some, it takes revenue away from Jones County. Aside from local residents who go in to renew their licenses, many from other counties and cities come to Jones County for similar services. The wait time here is considerably less than that of larger counties.
Many times the person renewing his/her driver’s license is also required to take a driving test. Jones County also provides this service; however, as Picray pointed out, the county does not receive any reimbursement from the state for driving tests. Picray said they are adding a second person to this service to keep up with the demand.
“Everyone in the office is cross-trained, though,” she stipulated.
They also added two additional computers to help issue licenses more quickly.
Online renewals will take revenue out of the county, with some counties resulting in fewer employees.
“Some counties may have to let people go,” Picray warned.
While some years have been busier than others when it comes to the number of licenses issued, Picray said every five years they see a jump with the current term limit.
For FY 2012, the Jones County Treasurer’s Office had $63,467 in expenditures and saw $34,755 in revenue. For FY 2013, they had $65,028 in expenditures and $49,112 come in as revenue. So while the revenue may have increased, so did the costs.
As a county treasurer, Picray is definitely not alone in her feelings regarding these changes to the driver’s license system.
“It’s been a real eye-opener for me,” she said.
In her thoughts to Sen. Zumbach, Picray ended by stating, “I am not opposed to either concept, however, I think the shift in revenue from the counties to the state needs to be considered and addressed.”