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Davis can’t end car-fee service yet

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It appears Davis County won't be getting rid of its motor vehicle registration service as fast as county leaders would like.

After receiving notice from county commissioners Tuesday that the county would discontinue the collection of registration fees in Farmington this July, the Utah State Tax Commission responded that it would require an additional year's notice before being able to take on those collection duties for the county.

Tax commission executive director Rod Marrelli said state law was changed three years ago to require counties give 18 months notice to the state, and Davis has only provided a little more than six months notice.

"The purpose was to give whichever entity was to take it over 18 months so they would be able to go through a full budget cycle," he said.

Davis is the only county along the Wasatch Front that still collects motor vehicle fees, with Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties opting to have the state collect such fees. Utah allows each county to choose whether to have those fees collected by the county itself or the Utah State Tax Commission.

On Tuesday, county commissioners voted 2-1 to have the state begin collecting such taxes beginning July 1. County leaders actually believed they were giving significantly more notice than required, as they said the requirement was only 90 days. But Marrelli said the Tax Commission needs more time than that to figure out funding and come up with options.

"We told them we disagreed," he said.

Davis County Commissioner Dannie McConkie said he is still supportive of the county dissolving its motor vehicle office even if it won't happen for 18 months.

Although the dissolution of the county's motor vehicle department doesn't necessarily mean the state won't provide the service in Davis County, already this year at the Legislature budgets are being cut, making the possibility for the state expanding its service in Davis look slim for this year. That could change next year, depending on the economy.

"This year it would be really difficult for us to find the revenues," Marrelli said. "It's really a dollars game."

If there is no vehicle registration office in Davis County, residents would probably have to drive to Rose Park or Ogden for the service.

Employees of the Davis County motor vehicle registration office fear they will lose their jobs or be offered less desirable jobs with the state because of the county's decision to get rid of the service. They also say residents will be inconvenienced if they are forced to drive to Ogden or Rose Park, where they say lines are longer and customer service isn't as good.

The major reason for the decision was to avoid the $100,000-a-year subsidy that the county has been paying to keep the service at the county level.

Davis County has subsidized the program for several years to better serve taxpayers in the county but now county leaders believe residents would be better served by saving taxpayer money and ensuring the county budget is balanced.

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com