Numbers Show Why Oneonta DMV Closed

COUNTY CLERK SAYS:

Numbers Show Why

Oneonta DMV Closed

The county’s DMV office, now closed, was entered from the Westcott Lot level of Old City Hall. (WZOZ photo)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Bliss
Sinnott Gardner

ONEONTA – When she saw the numbers, it was clear the Oneonta DMV had to be shut instead of Cooperstown’s office, according to County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner.

In response to a question from county Rep. Michele Farwell, D-Morris, at last week’s meeting of the county Board of Representatives, Sinnott Gardner drilled down in to the relative revenues generated by the two offices, she said in an interview Tuesday, May 26.

She found Cooperstown’s DMV generated $4.5 million in sales tax; Oneonta’s only $1/2 million, indicating the main office in the County Office Building at 197 Main St., Cooperstown, is nine times more productive.

That’s because the main office processes sales tax generated by auto dealerships. Locally, most are in Oneonta, but if a county resident buys a car anywhere else in the state – Utica, foremost, in many other counties as well – the sales tax reverts to the buyer’s county of residence.

Half of the 8 percent sales tax goes to Albany, and the other half stays in the county, according to County Treasurer Allen Ruffles.

Direct revenue from Oneonta from “foot traffic” ($247,998) is $48,000 more than in Cooperstown ($199,748), but the revenues from the county’s share of sales tax generated far outstrips that, she said.

“When you have two offices and you have to close one of them,” Sinnott Gardner said, “somebody’s not going to be happy. There’s no way to please everyone in this case.”

It first became clear one office would have to go, the county clerk said, when she learned she was losing three clerks among the 59 layoffs the county board approved last week.

Thus, three of the Oneonta clerks were laid off, and the two others transferred to join the three at the Cooperstown office, she said. Two were insufficient to operate that office alone.

Not every county clerk in New York State operates local DMV offices in collaboration with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, but Otsego is among the counties that, in state law, must have such an office – but only one, Sinnott Gardner said.

From a management standpoint, it makes sense to have the one office in proximity to the County Clerk’s Office in Cooperstown, she said, and county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Coopers-
town/Town of Middlefield agreed.

Bliss has also pointed out that, while Oneonta has the larger population, Cooperstown is more centrally located within the county.

The county clerk, who like a county sheriff, is elected, not appointed by the county board, has the authority to decide how to manage her operations. The county board only has influence through the purse strings.

However, Sinnott Gardner – and Bliss – see what’s happening as part of a larger dynamic: “More and more people are going to the Internet to renew their licenses” and other services, she said. “Whatever they can do online, they’re doing on line.”

She continued: “The county clerks feel, as long as we’re kept out of our offices” – since the governor’s March 13 emergency declaration – “it gives Albany the chance to move more and more transactions online. They’ve had almost three months to see what else they can do.”

Still, some drivers, particularly elderly ones, aren’t comfortable going on line and prefer the personal service a DMV office can provide.

“I believe, some day, if there are DMV offices, they aren’t going to make any money,” she said, and will have to be supported by other revenues as a service to citizens.


2 thoughts on “Numbers Show Why Oneonta DMV Closed

  1. Thomas Buffington

    Nope, sorry, I live just outside Oneonta and always went there. I’m not driving to Cooperstown, I’ll do it all on line now.

  2. Mike

    This is insane. You know what Oneonta has more of than cooperstown? VOTERS. I doubt this decision lasts.

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