Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Treasurer’s office suggests ideas to shorten lines

Ways to cut wait times to renew vehicle license tags proposed

October 9, 2007


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Three Questions with ... Paula Gilchrist, Douglas County treasurer

Paula Gilchrist, Douglas County treasurer, discusses efforts to reduce lines for paying vehicle taxes, and technology that could make license plates "smarter." Enlarge video

Douglas County Treasurer's office explores ways to reduce long lines

The office says the longest lines form at the end of the month when most people renew their vehicle license tags. Enlarge video

On the street

How patient are you when it comes to waiting in line?

It depends on where I am and if I expected the line to be as long as it is. I’m usually patient unless I’m in a big hurry.

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The Douglas County Treasurer's office is looking for ways to shorten the long lines that form at the end of the month, when many people renew their vehicle license tags.

Among the solutions are encouraging more renewals by mail and online, and working with the state to increase the number of registration due dates.

The tag renewal process was one of several issues studied in an 18-month management assessment of the treasurer's office conducted by a consultant. Treasurer Paula Gilchrist initiated the study. The consultant was paid $125 an hour for work that was done. Gilchrist said she could not immediately provide the total paid.

Included in the study, which was discussed at Monday's County Commission meeting, was a survey of the public about its perception of the treasurer's office and its employees. The survey was taken on peak transaction days at the office. Employees got high marks for competence, promptness, accuracy, courteousness and experience.

"Customer satisfaction overall is very high," the consultant, LaVern Epp, said. "But, simply stated, people don't like the hassle of standing in line for new licenses."

Gilchrist said she would like the state to adopt two due dates for vehicle tags. For example, tag fees and vehicle taxes for people whose last names start with "A" are due on the last day of February. A change might require that those with names "Aa" through "Ae" be due by the 15th and the remainder of the alphabet due at the end of the month.

Gilchrist also noted that ending the use of license stickers would save money. Renewals could be handled online and no sticker would have to be mailed to the vehicle owner. A marker, similar to a bar code, would be built into the license tag. The code would contain registration information and would be read by a scanning gun. Police would be able to use a scanner from their cars.

Such changes would require action by the Kansas Department of Revenue.

People currently can renew vehicle registrations online and pay by credit card. But a processing fee is charged for use of a credit card, which makes the overall cost a few dollars higher than paying in person or by mail.

The treasurer's office plans to expand its services out of the courthouse. By the end of the year, Gilchrist hopes to have some employees working in Baldwin City one week a month. They would handle tax collections and vehicle registrations. The county will partner with Baldwin State Bank to use its satellite branch in Baldwin City Market.

Commissioners Bob Johnson, Charles Jones and Jere McElhaney commended Gilchrist for her initiatives. So did County Administrator Craig Weinaug. He said treasurer's employees offered suggestions for improving efficiency.

"I have seen people in this department that have just blossomed in terms of talent and ability," Weinaug said.

Weinaug said he hopes similar assessments can be conducted in other county departments.

In other matters Monday, commissioners approved one version of the so-called southern development plan on a 2-1 vote. The plan outlines residential, industrial and commercial uses for an area generally between 31st Street and the Wakarusa River.

Johnson and McElhaney voted for a plan recommended by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. That version designates land northwest of the intersection of 31st and Louisiana streets as "medium-density residential." Jones voted for the Lawrence City Commission version, which designated the same area "low-density residential."


huntershaven 10 years, 7 months ago

The licensing plan seems to be logical except for expecting people to come to the office with a due date based on their last name. Why not base it on the month it was purchased? Then the load would be spread out more evenly throughout the year with a few small spikes in major vehicle purchase months but otherwise fairly level.

As for using a scanner bar code registration, that makes sense unless you live in a rural area with dusty conditions or have a vehicle used for farm or hauling tasks and your plate (as well as the bar coded sticker) get a bit beat up and perhaps unscannable. For Kansas vehicles that could cause problems, but in Missouri there are plates on the front and back so at least one plate should ideally still be scannable. Then again, to have a LEO need to scan a sticker at a traffic stop along with juggling all the other equipment on their belts would add a bit more complexity and difficulty to their job. I suppose a dash, grill or bumper mounted scanner could be installed as the radar/laser speed measuring units already are and it could have an automatic scan cycle that begins when a vehicle is pulled over or when activated by the LEO.

Overall, I think Kansas makes it harder to pay taxes and title/register/license vehicles because you have to do everything at once in one place and have to have all of the money available at one time. This works fine if you have a older vehicle that has a low tax value but makes it a bit more difficult if you have to come up with the money to pay the taxes on a higher valued vehicle around federal and state income tax season.

huntershaven 10 years, 7 months ago

I have yet to see a DMV or Department of Revenue Office in either Kansas or Missouri be open on the weekend, but that is also a good suggestion. I again agree that more location distributed out through a county and population centers within a county are a good idea. I would think with the power of computer network technology it would be easier to spread out the locations and verify data than it used to be before computers.

Kat Christian 10 years, 7 months ago

Barcode on tags - who thinks of these things? That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. So anyone can have tags on their car and as long as they don't get stopped no one the wiser that the tags are stolen much less up to date. I think the number sticker should remain - easy to spot - easy to prove someone has updated their tags.

I can't believe this town sometimes. I grew up in DC - it is not uncommon to literally spend the day at the MVA getting your license or tags renewed. There they combined both renewal and vehicle inspection so there is no need to go to 3 different places to take care of your car needs. When I first got my license here it took me all of 10 minutes. Renewal was all of 10 minutes. I love it. Took me 10 minutes to get my tags renewed. So what's the problem? I don't see a problem.

Kat Christian 10 years, 7 months ago

Oh yea, and more people may use the online process if there wasn't that extra charge.

CrazyDiamond 10 years, 7 months ago

How about not waiting until the last day or two of the month to renew your tags.

countrygirl 10 years, 7 months ago

I walked in on the last Wednesday of the month at about 1 in the afternoon---and didn't have to wait at all. I parked on Mass so I'd fed the parking meter--it only showed I'd been gone 10 minutes when I came back. Don't wait until the last minute and it's not a problem.

KsTwister 10 years, 7 months ago

The extra charge online is only $1.00,big deal most fishing or hunting get .50 or $1.00 if online too. Gas isn't cheap so it may even it out.

oldvet 10 years, 7 months ago

If hundreds of companies can accept online processing with charge cards without any additional fee, why can't the county figure it out too? Authorization is nearly instantaneous, computer-to-computer, no human intervention is required other than to stuff the envelope with the computer-generated forms (and even that could be automated), no bounced checks to process, less clerks needed at the government office. Want to encourage it... then add a fee for a clerk-assisted transaction and no fee for online processing... some banks are going that direction, limiting your teller trips without a fee, because they know the online processing is cheaper in the long run and the majority of transactions are routine. Time to move into the present...

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