A Hummel Report Investigation
Rhode Island law says motorists have 30 days to register their cars after moving here. This week we find a school superintendent who is still driving with Illinois license plates, 18 months after taking a job in Rhode Island - a loss in revenue for the town that employers her. Jim Hummel has her explanation.
Click HERE to see the RI law on vehicle registrations.
Click HERE to see the Superintendent Krizic's contract (PDF).
Click HERE To see the Superintendent Krizic's contract termination addendum (PDF).
Lynn Krizic became Portsmouth's new school superintendent in the summer of 2011. It was a fresh start after a suburban Chicago school district decided not to renew her contract as superintendent.
She came with a doctorate degree from the University of Illinois - and a vanity plate from the state of Illinois trumpeting that accomplishment.
A year and a half later, Krizic still has her 2003 Saab Turbo registered in Illinois, despite a Rhode Island law that says she has 30 days to change registrations after moving here. We caught up with Krizic as she arrived for work in the Saab the week before Christmas.
Hummel: ``How's your transition been?''
Krizic: ``I've had a really incredibly supportive staff that have worked very hard to make it really, you know, easy for me to become part of this community, so I've been very fortunate.''
Hummel: ``We also were curious as to why you're still driving on Illinois license plates?''
Krizic: ``You know, I just haven't changed them out yet. My husband travels extensively; he's been renewing the insurance from afar and I just haven't changed those out yet.''
Hummel: ``It's been 18 months, though.''
Krizic: ``I know it has, I know it's been a long time.''
Mike Vispo of the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles, in an interview for a similar story we did two years ago, said the law does not leave any wiggle room.
Vispo: ``If you're a resident of the state. You live here, and you either live here and work here, or you live here and your children go to school here, you've got 30 days after you've been in the state to get your car registered in Rhode Island.''
Hummel: ``You know the law in Rhode Island says 30 days?''
Krizic: ``You know someone did inform me of that, that I have 30 days once you move here. So yes, it's obviously something I have to take care of once the new year happens.''
What Krizic didn't tell us was that the School Committee told her a year ago she needed to change her license plates. David Croston, the newly-elected chairman, tells the Hummel Report the committee gave her a warning, then said it was a personal matter for her to take care of.
Krizic, who lived in Portsmouth for her first year in Rhode Island, did register for the 2012 beach season in Little Compton, where she moved six months ago.
We also found the sticker on her Illinois license plate expired last April and the windshield sticker in the town of Elmhurst, Illinois - where she had lived before coming to Portsmouth - was also out of date.
Elmhurst does not charge property taxes on cars.
Hummel: ``You also know that your plates, even in Illinois, are expired.''
Krizic: ``Actually they're not expired. My sticker is at home, it is not expired. If you go into the system my plates have been renewed.''
Hummel: ``So you're current in Illinois.''
Two days after our interview, a current sticker appeared on the Saab, which is parked across from Town Hall in front of the School Administration building - one of the most public intersections in town. Portsmouth's Police Chief told The Hummel Report last month if Krizic doesn't register in 30 days, his department will take action.
The law addressing out-of-state plates has come into sharper focus since the General Assembly eliminated its car tax subsidy several years ago, putting an added tax burden on most Rhode Island motorists, including some with older cars who haven't had to pay any car tax for years.
And at least one community has begun to crack down. The tax assessor in Barrington two months ago began visiting places in town - like the high school parking lot - where out-of-state plates being driven by residents have been appearing regularly. The assessor has sent letters to the owners, encouraging them to get registered, before the town notifies the police.
Hummel: ``But you understand why we're asking this question because you've been here long enough to know how schools are funded right? What the primary funding source is in Rhode Island?''
Krizic: ``There's a variety of funding sources for schools and the majority of our funding is through property taxes here in the town of Portsmouth.''
Hummel: ``And that would include car taxes, right?''
Krizic: ``You know I don't know the specific details of the town's allocation. I know the town's allocation has a lot to do with their property taxes. It's the state allocation of resources that may include car taxes.''
Hummel: ``But in a town like Portsmouth with dwindling state aid - you know because you put the budgets together - you rely a lot on your homeowners and I know you don't live in town, but also you rely on those car taxes and property taxes to fund your schools. Isn't that a little ironic here?''
Krizic: ``You know the car taxes that everybody pays in Portsmouth is not going to have any impact on our state aid. Our state aid is based on a formula, based on students, based on free and reduced lunch and even if the town of Portsmouth if they all bought 10 cars and paid taxes on those 10 cars it would not increase our state aid here. So that is the unfortunate piece.''
Hummel: ``It wouldn't increase your state aid, but it's the amount you're paying locally, the people in Portsmouth pick up, right?''
Krizic: ``You know, I really do appreciate this opportunity to talk to you and, you know, I don't really know where this conversation is going, and....''
Hummel: ``Well the fact is there are people who pay property taxes because they have to register their cars 30 days after they move here and your car is not registered in Rhode Island and you're not paying taxes on that car and that affects the local budget. Would you agree with all of that?''
Krizic: ``Ahhh, indirectly maybe, but not directly, no, not directly. It does not affect our budget directly''
Krizic is mid-way through a 3-year contract that pays her $145,000 a year, plus an $8,000 annual expense account.
Hummel: ``I understand you live in Little Compton, but the people in Little Compton are not getting car tax on your car because you haven't registered it, as the state requires - and there's a reason for that law, 30 days after you move in.''
Krizic: ``You know, I appreciate having the opportunity to talk to you. I'm going to go into my office now.''
Hummel: ``You don't' want to answer any more questions about this?''
Krizic: ``You know, you know I feel the way that you approached this was less than ....was less than what I would have expected.''
Hummel: ``What would you have expected?''
Krizic: ``Certainly a call to my office to say we'd like to sit down with you Dr. Krizic and talk to about a few issues. That's what I would have expected.''
Hummel: ``Well sometimes you get the most candid answers when people have to answer directly and don't have a chance to think about what their answer's going to be.''
Krizic: ``And I'm trying to be as candid and open and honest with you as possible. So I thank you for that opportunity very much. Thank you.''
Hummel: ``Bottom line it's revenue.''
Vispo: ``It's revenue. Everybody that's registered out of state that shouldn't be - it's costing the state money on the local level and that funnels into the bigger picture/''
One January 2nd, her first day back at work after the holidays, Krizic still had not registered her car in Rhode Island.
In Portsmouth, Jim Hummel, for the Hummel Report.