News

‘Burned Out’ F.C. Revenue Office to Shut Down DMV Select at End of October

Falls Church Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton (right) helps two DMV Select customers at his office in City Hall. Clinton says he plans to end the DMV Select services his office provides at the end of the month. (Photo: News-Press)
Falls Church Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton (right) helps two DMV Select customers at his office in City Hall. Clinton says he plans to end the DMV Select services his office provides at the end of the month. (Photo: News-Press)

City of Falls Church Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton still plans to end the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Select services that his office has been providing to Virginia residents since 2006 at the end of this month. His small staff, he said, is overburdened by the volume of business that comes through the commissioner of the revenue office from people seeking the DMV Select services.

“We’re basically doing two jobs at once – having to take care of all the commissioner responsibilities and the DMV. It’s a challenge,” Clinton said.

Population growth and business development over the past several years in the City has meant an increase in the amount of non-DMV related business handled by the commissioner’s office. But the additional business the office gets from offering DMV Select services – according to Clinton his office handles 25,000 DMV transactions a year – has put it in a position where it either needs to end those services completely, or add additional staff and space to handle the increased workload.

“We can’t keep going at the pace as the city grows. We’ve got one apartment building opening up this year and two in construction and they’re talking about Mason Row. All of those buildings will have cars; all of those buildings will have people with tax returns that file them through the office and there are businesses at the ground floor of all those buildings and they’ll have multiple taxes that come through this office,” Clinton said.

“At some point you can do a little more with less and then it just becomes you’re chronically short-handed and that’s where we’re at. I’m burning out, my staff is burning out and we’re not getting to things as we’d like to or like we had been able to get to.”

Clinton heard from F.C. residents over the weekend while he was out canvassing with Jody Acosta, interim City Treasurer who is running for election to the full-time position in November. Some were shocked, some disappointed and others understanding, he said, at his announcement of the plans to stop providing DMV services at last September 22’s City Council meeting.

Virginia residents from around the region have used the City’s DMV Select office as a speedy, efficient alternative to the full-service DMV centers in Tysons Corner and Arlington since they opened eight years ago. Another nearby DMV Select in Vienna closed down earlier this year, adding to a workload at the F.C. commissioner’s office that, according to Clinton, had already been in the 20,000 transaction per year range.

If Clinton carries out his plan to end Falls Church’s services, there are other DMV Select locations in Arlington, Fairfax City, Lorton and Sterling.

Clinton said closing the DMV Select is a double-edged sword, for a few reasons. While his staff is overburdened by the workload that comes with offering the services, offering them also simplifies the carrying out some of the responsibilities of the commissioner’s office.

“It’s kind of difficult, especially because it’s going to make our job a little bit harder, not having access to the DMV Select database,” Clinton said. “While on one hand it’s going to be less work, the work we’re going to have to do, we’re going to have to go backwards to get it done.”

Clinton also said he enjoys being able to provide the DMV Select services his office has offered to Virginia residents for over eight years. He likes the convenience it allows for people with special needs, like the temporarily or permanently handicapped, who may have trouble getting to one of the full service centers to get handicap placards.

“We still try to do the small town things that people appreciate. Otherwise, it’s just kind of a big, impersonal kind of county like Arlington or Fairfax,” Clinton said. “But it takes people and it takes dedication and I think that we’ve demonstrated that. At some point, though, you’re just worn out, you’re just stressed.”

F.C. City Councilman Phil Duncan told the News-Press Wednesday that he hopes that the City can come up with a “short-term approach to continuing to offer DMV Select services in a way that is fiscally rational.”

Because of the DMV state office’s funding model, the constitutionally elected officials in municipalities around Virginia who provide the DMV Select services have struggled to justify continuing to offer the services.

“The basic service operates at a loss,” F.C. City Manager Wyatt Shields told the News-Press. ‘It needs to be subsidized by the taxpayers of the city to provide the service and it’s a valuable service so it might be worth subsidizing.”

Clinton says a possible solution for keeping Falls Church’s DMV Select offices open is to reduce the hours or number of days the services are offered. He says it’s also possible his office will stop offering the services for the rest of the budget year and begin offering them again next year.

Even if the F.C. office kept offering DMV Select services and hired more staff, there is also the issue of space, as the commissioner’s office shares space with the treasurer’s office. On busy days, this results in long lines and confusion for residents and DMV Select customers who are coming to the same room to handle business with different departments.

Clinton suggested his office could make use of the space, located down the hall from his current location, vacated by the Water Utility Department since the sale of the water system to Fairfax Water earlier this year.

Ideally, Clinton would like the City to create a space in City Hall dedicated to DMV Select services, hire two full-time staffers to work in that office and rotate in another person from his office to help out the DMV Select staffers.