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Kansas encouraging online vehicle tag renewals

Published on -8/2/2012, 8:31 AM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- To encourage residents to renew their vehicle registrations online, Kansas officials said Wednesday that fees will be waived for the next year for payments made online using credit cards or electronic checks.

The announcement from the state Division of Vehicles came three weeks after a legislative committee ordered an audit of a $40 million upgrade of the computer system that handles annual vehicle tags. Problems following the upgrade's rollout in May led to long lines and hours of waiting in some county treasurers' offices.

Spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said the division isn't anticipating those long lines into the future and simply wanted to remind people that they can renew their tags online. The state also allows many vehicle owners to mail in renewal forms and payments.

In order to renew online, an owner must have previously registered the vehicle at the same address and have insurance coverage. The division has charged a 2.5 percent fee for using a credit card to renew tags online, or $5 for a $200 payment. It also has charged a flat $3 fee or using an online check.

The state expects the yearlong waiver of fees to save Kansas vehicle owners $1.2 million, though the figure could be higher depending on how many people renew their tags online. Last year, about 2.4 million vehicles were registered in Kansas and about 11 percent, or 269,000, were online renewals.

"It's a convenience," Koranda said. "We're trying to make sure that there's not a barrier."

When the Division of Vehicles division rolled out its upgraded computer system in early May, county treasurers stopped taking vehicle registrations, driver's license applications and other related business for about a week during the installation. That created backlogs, and other problems with the system hampered counties' efforts to deal with the backlog, even as residents came in with new business.

It was the first overhaul of the division's computer systems since the late 1980s. The Department of Revenue, which oversees the Division of Vehicles, is still withholding the final payment of $2.5 million due to its contractor, 3M Co., until the agency feels problems are resolved. State auditors expect to finish their review of the computer upgrade by early spring.

State Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat who pushed for the audit, welcomed the division's decision but said the agency should have done it before rolling out the computer system upgrade to help lessen lines at county treasurer's offices.

"This should have been part of the planning process," Kelly said. "It's pretty obvious to everyone that the rollout was not smooth."

Koranda said lines were "dying down" in counties with long waits. Also, she and other department officials have noted that in dealing with the backlog, the new computer system has handled more transactions in recent weeks than it did in the same period last year.

But in Topeka, residents were still waiting several hours Wednesday morning to renew their tags at the Shawnee County treasurer's office inside the courthouse.

Kevin Miller, a Topeka painter, was renewing his car tag and took a number and then a break from the line to grab a barbecue beef sandwich from a street vendor a few blocks away. He acknowledged he hadn't considered trying to renew the tags online, and anticipated a three-hour wait and took it in stride saying, "It is what it is."

Karlen Peterson, a Topeka teacher, came to the courthouse to register a new car for friends, a couple who between them work three jobs and couldn't take off work. He anticipated a three-hour wait and said waiving fees for online vehicle tag renewals wouldn't help him or some other Kansans.

"There's certain things you can't do online," he said. "That's the problem."

As for the division's argument that problems are diminishing, Peterson agreed there's been a slight improvement but still scoffed, saying, "It was chaos before. Now, it's just really bad."

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Online:

Kansas vehicle registration renewal site: https://KSWebTags.org

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