New County Decals Starting to Make Appearance across County

By Scott McCaffrey Sun Gazette

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Darren Nelson holds the 2013 Arlington County decal, which highlights the USS Arlington. Nelson will be the first commander of the Arlington upon its commissioning in April. Washington-Lee High School student Ben Jenks designed the decal. (Photo by Deb Kolt)

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Darren Nelson holds the 2013 Arlington County decal, which highlights the USS Arlington. Nelson will be the first commander of the Arlington upon its commissioning in April. Washington-Lee High School student Ben Jenks designed the decal. (Photo by Deb Kolt)

The 2013-14 county tax decals are slowly beginning to be seen on windshields across Arlington, with the trickle likely to turn into a flood over the next two months.

Officials with the county treasurer’s office began disseminating the new decals in early July to those registering new vehicles and paying taxes on them. Most vehicle owners will receive the new decals – along with tax bills – in mid-August, Chief Deputy Treasurer Carla de la Pava told the Sun Gazette.

Vehicle owners have until mid-November to get stickers on their cars, trucks and SUVs. Those who don’t face the possibility of a parking ticket.

The stickers, affixed next to the sate inspection sticker, are designed to prove that owners have paid their annual personal-property tax on the vehicles. (Mailing decals with the bills leads to the inevitable question: “How do the decals prove payment of vehicle personal-property taxes if you don’t have to pay the bill before getting the sticker?” Officials with the treasurer’s office say the decals are only mailed in advance to those who have a track record of paying; others don’t get them until after payment is received.)

The 2013-14 decal features a design by rising Washington-Lee High School senior Ben Jenks, selected in a vote conducted online and through the Sun Gazette last fall.

Jenks was one of four students – two from Washington-Lee, two from Wakefield, and all juniors – whose designs were picked from among 23 student submissions. Nearly 2,100 residents cast ballots to select the winner, up about 100 from the year before.

The competition’s theme was the U.S. Navy’s USS Arlington, which was commissioned in April.

Describing the victory as “really cool” when his victory was announced in January, Jenks said he used computer graphics to complement a photo of the Navy ship, placing his design on a blue background.

The student-design competition, sponsored by the county treasurer’s office, has run annually since 2005. Jenks became the first Washington-Lee student to win it since the inaugural year.

Other finalists for 2013 were Ben Tobin of Washington-Lee as well as Kira Tucker and Isabel George of Wakefield High School.

Most Virginia jurisdictions continue to require tax decals to be placed next to the state inspection sticker on vehicle windshields, but only Arlington has made each year’s design a community event.

Besides the 155,000 vehicles that will sport the decal, Navy officials have agreed to affix one on a window in front of the captain’s chair of the USS Arlington – leading to the inevitable jesting that Arlington officials planned to send the Navy a personal-property tax bill for the ship.

The new USS Arlington is a landing platform dock designed to transport Marines and their equipment to world hot-spots and to engage in humanitarian-relief efforts.

De la Pava said the treasurer’s office has been dispensing county decals since 1967. Prior to that, motorists had to attach metal strips to their license plates to prove payment of property tax on vehicles.

County Treasurer Frank O’Leary inaugurated the decal competition in 2002, and made it exclusively for high school students three years later. Winning designs are displayed on the second floor of the county government’s headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

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