The Big Sky Ski Education Foundation license plate involves a $20 Donation to Sponsor, $10 Administration Cost, $10 Production Cost and $20 Renewal Donation. PHOTO COURTESY MTDMV

Save the plates

Big Sky Ski Education Foundation’s license plate on the state’s chopping block

A gigantic binder can be found during any visit to the Gallatin County Motor Vehicle Department. That binder is full of speciality license plate options – a major revenue stream for nonprofit organizations in the state.

For six and a half years Big Sky Ski Education Foundation (BSSEF) has been using the funding generated from its speciality license plate to provide scholarships to student athletes so they can compete on the ski team.

BSSEF is a 27 year old Big Sky based nonprofit club that has been offering competitive alpine, nordic and freeride skiing programs for kids.

“Our license plate came out in July of 2014. In July of 2014, it seemed like there were less than 60 speciality plates and now it seems like there are over 200,” BSSEF program director Jeremy Ueland said.

The legislature attempted to keep the number of specialty license plates in check in a few ways using Montana Code Annotated 61-3-474, one stipulation was that if “any time after 3 years following the date of the initial distribution of the sponsored generic specialty license plate, there are fewer than 400 sets of the sponsored generic specialty license plate with a current registration” that generic speciality license plate will be revoked.

With that guideline, 85 speciality license plates have been placed on the chopping block – BSSEF’s license plate being one of them.

According to the DMV website, sponsor organizations have been granted a one-time only grace period until July 1, 2020 to increase their sales and save their plates.

It has been a long, confusing and stressful path to this grace period, Ueland explained. Letters, emails and phone calls all produced varying dates established for compliance to the MCA statute, with a deadline from a few months away to a full year.

The entire process began in July when BSSEF received a letter stating that the organization was not meeting requirements set by the legislature for a minimum of 400 plates.

Ueland believes this grace period is an attempt for the state to address that misleading information and give the 85 nonprofits a fair shake.

The MCA statute also hits upon the legwork the Department of Motor Vehicles has to undertake for each speciality license plate. For example, the DMV designs the plates and works with the Department of Corrections to figure-out the best method of manufacturing, in addition to a host of other things.

“The state had to come up with something to try to limit the amount of speciality license plates there are. It has gotten out of control and this is their way of controlling it, so it makes sense,” Ueland said.

If the BSSEF license plate does get revoked, the organization cannot reapply to have the license plate going again for four years. Also per the MCA, existing BSSEF license plates would be able to continue to be displayed until a motor vehicle's registration is renewed.

For more information about BSSEF visit bssef.com; for more information on speciality plates visit dojmt.gov/driving/platedesigns-and-fees/education/

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