The Blaine County commissioners will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 23, to consider a fee increase at the Blaine County Department of Motor Vehicles, as the Assessor’s Office tries to patch the projected $130,000 deficit it runs to administer the DMV on behalf of the state.
Earlier this month, County Assessor Jim Williams asked to raise the fee for motor vehicle-related transactions for the first time since 1995, from $3.85 to $8.25—the number he says will allow the office to break even on the approximately 28,000 transactions it handles each year. Under state statute, county assessors operate the DMV for the Idaho Transportation Department, and are allowed to charge fees “reasonably related” to the cost of providing that service.
“When that fee is correct, the whole cost of the DMV should be paid by the users of the DMV, and not by property tax,” Williams said. “Basically, it’s being subsidized by property taxpayers. That’s not a fair way to do it.”
DMV fees vary wildly from county to county, depending on volume and the cost of running the shop. Twin Falls County charges $2.50, while Payette County charges $8.25, Williams said.
The added revenue would flow into the county’s general fund, not specifically the Assessor’s Office.
New license requirements lead to longer waits
The fee increase would not affect driver’s licenses, which are issued by the Sheriff’s Office, even though they are obtained through the DMV. Here, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office sends one employee to work alongside William’s three-person front desk staff, though they all handle whatever work comes their way.
Lately, since Idaho adopted the Department of Homeland Security’s new requirements for identification, issuing licenses has become more difficult. That means waits have gone up—some 70 percent, from an average of 10 minutes to 17, according to Chief Deputy Assessor Melissa Fry. By October 2020, so-called “Star Cards” will be required to board domestic flights. (Otherwise, you’ll need a passport.) So far, just over 10 percent of Idaho drivers have them, according to ITD.
Star Cards are optional, but if you’re looking to get one, Fry recommends studying up on the necessary documentation first by visiting itd.idaho.gov/starcard/. And, she suggests dodging lines by visiting at low-traffic times on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while avoiding the lunch rush from noon to 2 p.m.
In June, Fry asked ITD for another computer terminal to cross-train staff for peak hours—but the department denied her request.
“We’re not giving up yet,” she said. “We’re looking for ways to process as many transactions as fast as possible.
“They’re the ones who decide what you need, and when you need it—even though we’re the face the public sees. All we can do is ask and ask and ask.”