City may charge registration tax to pay for junk vehicle program

Public hearing on proposed tax set for next Assembly meeting, Nov. 24

Posted: Thursday, November 06, 2003

The city may charge vehicle owners a motor vehicle registration tax (MVRT) of $22 every two years to pay for getting rid of junk and abandoned vehicles, the Assembly decided Wednesday.

A public hearing is set for the next regular Assembly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24, on the proposed tax. If approved, the tax would take effect Jan. 1, 2005.

The $22 tax would apply to non-commercial passenger vehicles, motor homes, pickup trucks and cargo vans dating back to model year 1996. Owners of non-commercial trailers and motorcycles, also dating back to 1996, would pay $4 every two years.

The motor vehicle registration taxes include an 8 percent state administration fee and a 5 percent city administration fee. The state would collect the fees and reimburse the city.

The MVRT for commercial vehicles would vary according to weight and model year. Commercial vehicles now pay a personal business property tax. State law prohibits the city from levying a motor vehicle registration tax and business personal property tax. So the city would assess a MVRT calculated at what the personal property tax levy would have been.

Owners of commercial vehicles and tour buses weighing 5,001 to 12,000 pounds would pay from $247 a year for 2003 models to $27 for 1996 models. This fee would go toward the city's general operating budget and not the junk vehicle program, because those vehicles traditionally have not posed a problem as being abandoned or left as junk, explained Bonnie Chaney, a budget analyst with the city.

The state prohibits collecting an MVRT tax on some vehicles, includingthose registered to disabled veterans, senior citizens, governments, handicapped and non-profit organizations.

The Assembly decided the MVRT tax would be a fairer way of paying for junk and abandoned vehicles than past practices.

"There is no perfect way of doing this, but at least this has some equity," City Manager Rod Swope said.

Currently, the city charges a $1.40 hazardous waste fee per month per household plus $75 at the time of disposal to pay for junk and abandoned vehicles.

The waste fee does not cover the cost of disposing the vehicles, city officials say.

Renters do not pay the hazardous waste fee now, regardless of vehicle ownership, but would be subject to the new MVRT tax.

Disposing of junk and abandoned vehicles costs the city more than $250,000 a year, Swope said. The city tries to locate the owners, who are subject to a $305 ticket. But a little more than 2 percent of the outstanding charges have been recovered, officials said.

The city estimates about 27,000 non-commercial passenger vehicles are in Juneau, and 700 are junked or abandoned annually.

The old hazardous waste fee sunsets on Sept. 30, 2004, so the city will have no fee collection mechanism in place for three months before the MVRT would take effect.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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