Editorial: Vehicle Taxes, Decals, Emergency ID Cards

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 16 November 2016 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Kure Beach Town Council voted earlier this year to implement a mandatory $5 tax for each vehicle registered to an address in Town.
Previously town ordinances required owners of motor vehicles with a current NC license plate who reside full-time within the Town to pay a $5 vehicle tax by March 31st to obtain a Vehicle Identification Decal. If an owner didn't pay the vehicle tax by that time, a penalty of $5 was added to the tax.
In the event of an evacuation due to a hurricane, vehicle decals helped law enforcement identify property owners returning to the Island while a curfew remained in effect.
The Council was presented with a proposal in April to change the way the tax was charged from an optional purchase of a decal to a fee attached to vehicle registrations with an address in Kure Beach. That would generate more revenue and ensure that every owner of a vehicle obtained a decal. Residents would still have to visit Town Hall to obtain the decals paid for through the registration process with the NC Department of Motor Vehicles.
Non-resident property owners would still be able to obtain a decal by paying the tax at Town Hall.
During the Council's Tuesday November 15th, meeting, the Council approved of a proposal to separate the decal from the new registration tax and begin charging an additional $5 per decal. Those decals will no longer be called "Vehicle Identification Decals" and will now be called "Re-entry Decals".
(See the story on page 1-A of this week's edition).
Ironically enough, it was stated at the meeting that "Re-entry Decals" will not really be a requirement to regain access to the Island after a storm, but merely help make life easier for officials to verify your residency. You could simply show them a driver's license showing your current address.
With all due respect to the Council, it's a tax increase. Plain and simple. The proposal adopted earlier this year was simple: You'll have to pay the $5 tax when you renew your registration and then bring your vehicle registration to Town Hall and get the decal for free.
Simple enough. Everyone pays for a decal through a mandatory program.
Following the November 15th meeting, you'll still pay that registration tax and now have to fork over another $5 for a "Re-entry Decal".
The idea that the decals are still optional and not really required to return to Town after a hurricane is a little odd. If you don't really need it, then why have a decal program at all? No one should be driving a car without a valid North Carolina Driver's License which shows their current address. Why not let the driver's license serve as the proof of residence in Kure Beach and skip the hassle of ordering decals and the administrative process of selling them at Town Hall?
For non-resident property owners, they can bring a water bill or deed or the Town could purchase a small number of decals specifically for that group of property owners.
It was interesting to hear Councilman David Heglar - head of Emergency Management for Kure Beach - voice concerns that Carolina Beach adopted a new Emergency ID Card program to replace their Vehicle Identification Decal program without even discussing the proposal with Kure Beach.
He's got a great point. After a hurricane when cars are lined up to the horizon on Highway 421 waiting to cross over Snow's Cut Bridge onto Pleasure Island, having two systems in place will likely cause confusion.
Even some members of the Carolina Beach Town Council weren't sure the program was an outstanding idea, but they approved it nonetheless.

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