Online and mailed DMV renewals mean a sharp drop in revenue for Tompkins County, says County Clerk

July 23, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

The Tompkins County Clerk's office, which oversees the local Department of Motor Vehicles office, is urging area residents to keep taxes down and keep dollars local by visiting the DMV in Hancock Plaza. Residents who mail back their renewal forms or use the DMV's new online tools are sending all their money to Albany.

The Tompkins County branch office of the NYS DMV is at the corner of Hancock and Third Streets on Ithaca's Northside.The Tompkins County branch office of the NYS DMV is at the corner of Hancock and Third Streets on Ithaca's Northside.County Clerk Maureen Renolds asks, "Did you know that 12.7% of all transactions that come across our counter at DMV support your local economy?" She hopes area residents who didn't know this will help keep their dollars in the area now that they do.

"They keep trying to take all the easy revenue away," Reynolds tells us. The State sends what she calls "a tiny portion of online DMV business," which amounted to "less than $5,000" in 2014, she says.

According to New York State DMV spokesperson Joe Morrissey, "Counties currently receive 2.5% of transactions completed on the Internet, a percentage that will increase to 3.25% in April 2016."

Morrissey tells us that "the number of transactions completed in the county offices is expected to increase over the next four years due to fluctuations in the license renewal cycle." He says a bump in license renewals, mostly handled in local offices "due to the vision test requirement," is coming soon thanks to a transition a while back from a 4-5 year license period to a 5-8 year license period.

This spring, though, New York State announced a "Vision Registry program" that would allow state residents to have one of "nearly 1,400 participating providers," such as "pharmacists and other vision care providers," perform a vision test and submit results to a registry that would then allow the residents to renew their driver licenses online.

Reynolds says, "The state pushes difficult transactions back to us, and then calls them 'no-fee,' so that we get nothing for doing the more time-consuming transactions." 

She says many transactions that can be handled by mail, including registration renewals, can simply be mailed to the local office at 301 Third Street, Ithaca, New York 14850, to protect that 12.7% revenue share. "Our revenue helps the County offset the property taxes," Reynolds points out, which could delay future tax hikes.

For transactions that can't be done by mail, Reynolds tells us, "Our wait times in line are usually less than five minutes, and you get your registration documents and plates immediately." She says their busiest times are lunch hour and Fridays, in general, and the Friday before Memorial Day is "our Black Friday," when "everyone wants to register their boats, trailers, campers, and motorcycles."

"Our staff has over 160 years of DMV knowledge," boasts Reynolds, who hopes more Ithaca-area residents will visit them next time they have a DMV transaction to handle.

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