By fall, Salt Lake County motorists will find themselves once again standing in two separate lines to deal with their vehicle property taxes and their state motor vehicle registration.
They will still only have to write a single check - but they will have to handle each matter separately.That prospect became imminent as County Commissioners Randy Horiuchi and Mary Callaghan agreed Wednesday to notify the Utah Tax Commission that Salt Lake County intends to withdraw from its joint collection contract with the state in 90 days.
For the past several years, the contract has allowed motorists to handle their taxes and registration at a single window with one check.
Commissioner Brent Overson did not attend today's commission meeting, but the formal withdrawal letter being sent to Tax Commission executive director Rod Marrelli is going out under his signature and with his blessing.
Horiuchi said the commission has decided to withdraw from the program because the state covers only a portion of the county's cost for handling the state's motor vehicle registration program.
The commiioner said the program costs the county approximately $1.5 million to $1.9 million each year, while the state reimburses the county only for about $900,000 of that amount.
"In good conscience, we cannot continue to ask county taxpayers to subsidize the state" to the tune of $660,000 to nearly $1 million a year, Horiuchi said.
"We're sad, because I thought we ran the program really well," he said. "Had we been reimbursed equitably, we would have continued the program."
The letter won't come as a surprise to the Tax Commission.
County commissioners sent out a similar letter of intent to withdraw from the program last June but put that decision on hold while the Tax Commission and the Legislature revisited the funding issue last session.
When it became apparent the program would still not be funded 100 percent, Horiuchi explained, the commission decided to resubmit the withdrawal letter.
Janice Perry Gully, spokeswoman for the state Tax Commission, said the commission would work with the county "to make a smooth transition" of control of motor vehicle registration offices.
"We'll do this so it won't even be visible to the public," said Gully.
She added that vehicle owners won't have to write two checks. "A state law was passed several years ago that says no matter who operates the registration office - the state or the county - the person registering the vehicle will only write one check," she said.
In the case of mail-in registrations, checks will no longer be made out to the county assessor. But a single check will be sent to the Tax Commission, and the state will then pay the county its share.
Horiuchi said Salt Lake County's action "may start a trend" among other Utah counties where taxpayers are being asked to subsidize the costs of the state's motor vehicle registration program.