$700,000 reasons why Palatine wants to get tough on vehicle sticker scofflaws
Scofflaws are costing Palatine as much as $700,000 annually by not purchasing vehicle stickers, and village officials want to do something about it.
Palatine village council members have backed a plan to increase police enforcement and enact higher late fees in an effort to gain compliance from the estimated 30% of vehicle owners who aren't buying the stickers.
Mayor Jim Schwantz endorsed the idea of getting strict.
"After a year of this, there will be a message sent loudly that that's not going to happen anymore in Palatine," Schwantz said.
In an effort to estimate how much cash isn't coming in, officials took a sampling of Illinois secretary of state vehicle registrations and examined if there were matching Palatine sticker sales. While the village generated about $1.2 million in sticker revenue last year, it should have received $1.7 million to $1.9 million, Village Administrator Reid Ottesen said. The goal is 90% compliance within three years of the enhanced enforcement, he added.
Another option council members considered but opted against would have eliminated the $30 decals and raised property taxes to make up for the lost revenue,
"I don't see it being completely broken by not getting the 30% that's not paying," Councilman Doug Myslinski said. "It certainly is, I guess, not operating at full capacity, right? But the one thing I think that's driving everybody out of the state of Illinois is when they get that property tax bill and they start seeing it just keep going up.
"We all just got our second phase (bill) and everybody that I've talked to says, 'I don't care what you do with the stickers, just do not put it on my tax bill. I don't want to see my taxes go up anymore.'"
Operating the sticker program costs the village about $200,000 a year in administrative costs. New stickers are supposed to be displayed by July 1 each year. The late fee is $20.
Ottesen said sticker revenues help fund local street projects. The "aggressive enforcement program" should be developed in time for the council's consideration during 2020 budget discussions later this year, he said.
"The dollars are integral to our road maintenance program that we do every year," Ottesen said. "From the (previous) budget discussions, I don't think there was any question we needed the money to continue the ongoing maintenance of our roads, the resurfacing, the operating costs of the roadway."
A random check of 4,675 vehicles registered with the secretary of state at homes on 10 Palatine streets showed 3,215, or 69%, with stickers. Williams Drive residents were the biggest scofflaws in the sampling, with 347 of 625 vehicles, or 56%, with the decals, according to the village.
Other Northwest suburban communities have dropped their sticker programs in recent years.
Rolling Meadows this year officially eliminated the village's vehicle stickers and enacted a natural gas tax to replace the lost revenue. Elk Grove Village cited strong finances in eliminating the stickers for residents in 2018 but keeping them for commercial vehicles.
Ottesen said Palatine is not trying to be punitive in wanting residents to buy the stickers.
"We can also start working in some public places and looking at using our license plate recognition to get more aggressive," he said. "And I know some other towns around here have done it. They've seen their compliance levels go up by doing that."