County legislators may devote $35,000 in the 2020 budget to study how to improve the operations of the two Department of Motor Vehicles offices as they face new challenges in the next year.
The Board of Legislators’ Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday added the amount to a list of amendments to the spending plan for next year proposed Oct. 4 by County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. The amended budget will be the subject of a public hearing in Rome Monday and in Utica, then be voted on by the whole board later this month.
Hearings are 7 p.m. Monday at the Plumley Complex at the Mohawk Valley Community College Rome campus, 1101 Floyd Ave., and 7 p.m. Tuesday in Utica in the first-floor conference room of the county office building, 800 Park Ave.
The amendments mostly move money among various funds, though one is to account for a recently received grant, and together would not add to the total spending enough to change the tax levy. As proposed by Picente, the $439 million budget would not require raising the county tax levy, though actual effects on individual tax bills can vary greatly among the county’s municipalities.
With the $35,000 appropriated, the board of legislators would likely seek requests for proposals from consultants to study how DMV operations can be improved. Republican minority leader George Joseph noted that the DMV, as part of the county clerk department, is under the purview of separately elected County Clerk Sandra DePerno.
Increased use of the DMV offices has been often attributed to growing demand for enhanced driver’s license which after Oct. 1 will be needed for federal purposes, most notably to get through airport checkpoints to board, though a passport or passport card will work, too. They cannot be obtained online or by mail, only in-person, and DePerno has cited the requirement as a major reason for more traffic at the DMV offices.
Joseph said there are indications applicants on average take more than two trips to get an enhanced driver’s license, often because they did not bring proper documentation.
The issue of DMV personnel came up at the board’s Oct. 9 meeting. United Public Service Employees Union representative Rosa Lomuscio told legislators there were four vacancies in the county’s DMV unit.
The Motor Vehicle Division of the Department of the County Clerk requested $910,867 for salaries, according to Picente’s budget. Picente included $886,681 in his Oct. 4 request.
The DMV requested $50,913 for temporary help, the projected expenditure at year’s end; Picente budgeted $36,000.
DePerno said she welcomes the study.
“With all of the new regulations that New York State DMV implements yearly, my DMV offices are over-burdened and under-staffed,” she said in a statement to the Daily Sentinel. “I am hopeful this study will come up with recommendations that can be implemented to better serve the residents of Oneida County with their DMV transactions. I applaud the Oneida County Board of Legislators for their insight into appropriating $35,000 to conduct this study.