After mid-February, eastern Jackson County residents will no longer be able to go to Blue Springs City Hall to renew their driver’s licenses or register their vehicles with the state.
Because of the costs involved, the city has decided not to pursue the renewal of its contract with the Missouri Department of Revenue to operate the license bureau, which has been at City Hall since 1975.
Eight employees will lose their jobs when the contract expires Feb. 11, but city officials hope that some, if not all, can find work with a new operator.
City Administrator Eric Johnson said in a news release that state requirements “have become so stringent that it no longer makes financial or operational sense for the city to operate this service on behalf of the state.”
“We must be good stewards of Blue Springs tax dollars and we don’t want to get into a situation that we are subsidizing a State of Missouri service through local municipal revenues,” Johnson said.
The new requirements include an upgraded security and camera system, a bond for subcontractors that have after-hours access to City Hall and an answering system to return customer calls, Johnson said by email. In addition, wait times cannot regularly exceed 15 minutes.
The state would impose penalties for non-compliance.
Other factors, Johnson said, include inadequate space at City Hall and potential investment in a new space for the bureau, as well as personnel costs. He said the city moved from part-time to full-time employees to reduce turnover and improve service. But full-time workers qualify for health care and other benefits.
The city said the Department of Revenue has nearly 180 independent contracts for license offices statewide, and only two — in Blue Springs and Grandview — are operated by municipalities. The others are private businesses.
Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross said the state will evaluate proposals from other potential operators.
“We understand the importance of this service to local residents as well as the convenience of having this service in Blue Springs,” Ross said in a statement. “Every effort will be made to work with the Missouri Department of Revenue to ensure a smooth transition.”
Grandview’s contract doesn’t expire until March 2018 for the license office it has run since 1984, said City Administrator Cory Smith.
Expenses have risen in Grandview as well, he said, but with only three full-time employees and the rest working part time, “we can still make it financially.”
“We can’t tell at this point what it will look like in four more years,” Smith said by email. “We’ve always felt it is a great service for our citizens and customers from KC or other cities, and we can provide one-stop shopping for those who need to either pay their county personal property taxes, get a duplicate receipt, or get a tax waiver prior to getting their vehicle license...
“But at some point, we also have to look at whether we are subsidizing the state of Missouri with local tax dollars. So far, we’re still making it work.”
To reach Elaine Adams, call 816-234-4732 or send email to email@example.com.