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Sticker Shock: Giant Decals Hit Henrico

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Among their Richmond-area neighbors, Henrico County government folks have a reputation for considering themselves the biggest fish in the pond. Bigger budget, bigger malls and bigger businesses. Add one more to the county's "bigger" bragging rights: county property tax stickers.

Really big.

"It looks like a poster," says local construction contractor Collin Shaffer, who received the tax decals for his two cars last week in the mail and suffered a case of sticker shock when he stuck the thing on the windshield of his Mazda Miata.

"They're huge," Shaffer says. "It blocks — it hinders the view."

But then who'd want to look beyond that profile of the mesmerizingly beautiful Powhatan Indian princess, Pocahontas?

"It wasn't meant to be bigger, other than for visibility," says Reta Busher, Henrico's director of finance, who oversees decal distribution.

The sticker is four inches by four inches square — about an inch and a quarter bigger than a traditional county decal. Ed Trice, the county's director of revenue, says he's fielded a few calls — both in support and of complaint — about the new stickers.

"I've had people say they love the design," Trice says.

There are no state regulations mandating a maximum size for city or county tax decals. By the same token, many localities have phased out the decals with the phasing out of the car tax. Trice says that such is the case with neighboring Chesterfield County.

Henrico is sticking with the stickers because they're useful.

For example, the county landfill relies on the stickers to ensure only Henrico residents are using the dump. Some counties that have done away with their stickers, Trice says, didn't consider these other uses and are having to issue special decals — as in the case of Charles City County — to prevent improper dumping.

So what makes the sticker bigger?

Trice says the new height dimension adds an inch on the bottom, giving the license plate number of the vehicle. Above that is the green field of the Henrico flag with the county seal in the center, with "Henrico" emblazoned above in 1-inch-high lettering. The sticker is good for five years instead of one.

So what about Shaffer and his low-slung Miata? Trice has a helpful hint. State police, who dictate where stickers may be placed, allow for the county sticker to be affixed in the lower left-hand corner of the front windscreen.

Too little, too late for Shaffer, who's not about to peel the thing off and risk ripping it to shreds. Instead, "I'm thinking about cutting the big Henrico letters off the top of it," he says. S

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