TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Revenue plans to change the way it notifies residents that they need to renew their vehicle tags.
The state agency wants to replace 2.6 million personalized vehicle renewal letters sent annually to residents with a generic postcard reminder as a cost-saving measure. The letter-to-postcard swap is expected to save the state around $500,000.
Counties that want to continue the previous method would bear the cost of printing and mailing the letters.
“Counties can have the option of sending a customized letter on their own,” said Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the revenue department.
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Sedgwick County is one of the counties considering such a move.
The first postcards that would go out will cover those with last names starting with M, N and O with renewals due in August, Sedgwick County Treasurer Linda Kizzire said Tuesday.
The new method will not list information about the vehicles up for renewal nor the amount due. The postcard, instead, directs the recipient to the state revenue department’s website to renew online or print a detailed letter and renew by mail or in person at the local treasurer’s office.
The cost of printing and postage fees involved in mailing the more detailed letters in Sedgwick County was unclear Tuesday. Kizzire said she hopes to know by mid-June whether continuing the letters will be cost prohibitive.
“Everybody kind of has to budget for big expenses, and it’s hard for people to do if they have no data,” she said. “Most people have Internet, but not everyone does.
“And I just think that in an effort to serve everyone, it should still continue to be an actual renewal notice” that customers receive.
“I’m probably going to work out some kind of arrangement to get those printed and mailed,” Kizzire added, “and we’re looking at some of the line items on our 2016 budget to fill those gaps.”
The Shawnee County treasurer’s office estimated it would spend $60,000 to $75,000 each year to replicate the state’s notification system.
Shawnee County Treasurer Larry Mah said he plans to monitor online, mail-in and in-person renewals during August, September and October to determine whether local taxpayers are adjusting well to the switch. He said some accustomed to the state’s letters may not recognize the postcards, which could prompt a rise in delinquencies.
“I’m going to take a wait-and-see attitude,” Mah said. “I’ll be watching very closely. I’ll be prepared to fix the problem. If my (treasurer office) lines blow up or my phone lines get locked up, we’ll send the renewals.”
Koranda said some lawmakers were briefed on the department’s decision by officials in the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback, but no public announcement has been issued.
Sen. Laura Kelly and Rep. Annie Kuether, both D-Topeka, say the level of service to taxpayers would be decreased if counties didn’t have the resources to resume services dropped by the state agency.
“Make the county do it and pay for it,” Kuether said. “It’s just a way of passing the buck.”
Contributing: Associated Press and Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle