Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida tax collectors fight state plan to outsource license-tag sales

TALLAHASSEE — County tax collectors in Florida are fighting a proposal by Gov. Rick Scott's highway safety chief to hire a private vendor to distribute millions of new license plates across the state.

The tax collectors warn that if tag sales are outsourced, costs will go up and the quality of customer service will go down.

Tax collectors, who are elected county by county, now distribute most tags to motorists, who can order them online, by mail, or in person.

The state plans a major redesign of the Florida license tag in the next few months, and Scott and the Cabinet will vote next Tuesday whether to pursue the redesign.

State highway safety chief Julie Jones says she can save money by hiring an outside company to handle online and mail sales. She said Wednesday she plans to seek tax collectors' input on a formal invitation to vendors, to be made public in early 2013.

But tax collectors pride themselves on customer service and say it would be a mistake for the state to outsource the work to a private company.

"There really is no evidence that it will save our customers money or that it will increase efficiency," said Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon. "I think it's the opposite."

Gannon said the current tag sales system works well. She and others expressed concerns that tax collectors would still get angry phone calls from motorists every time the vendor, presumably based in a faraway city, makes a mistake.

"It is all about customer service," said Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson, one of a dozen tax collectors who attended a Tallahassee news conference to protest the state's plan.

Nelson said the state should instead adopt tax collectors' cost-saving ideas, such as eliminating the names of counties from tags so they can be shipped across county lines.

Jones, who reports to Scott and the three Cabinet members, said she's "dismayed" by the intensity of the tax collectors' criticism. She said no decision has been made on whether to outsource tag sales and that she will keep seeking tax collectors' advice.

"I'm very disappointed that the tax collectors are not willing to innovate to create efficiencies," Jones said. "They just want to say 'No' and not work with me."

The highway safety chief has said she's under pressure by the governor's office to save money to create more revenue for Scott's priority, public schools.

Jones' agency was concerned enough about the tax collectors' opposition that the state sent a videographer to record the tax collectors' news conference. Jones said she wanted to be prepared to field questions about the tax collectors' position.

Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden not only opposes a new distribution system but says redesigning the tag is a waste of money.

"I think it's wrong," Belden said. "There needs to be a lot more study done."

Jones said that PRIDE, the nonprofit prison labor firm that now makes Florida license tags, charges the state 5 cents a tag to ship tags to tax collectors. Hiring a private vendor would eliminate that fee, she said.

The tag redesign is needed, Jones says, because Florida's current tags with their raised letters are difficult to read by automated cameras at toll booths and red-light intersections. A state study said illegible tags on Florida's Turnpike costs the state $4 million a year in lost revenue.

In her preliminary budget proposal, she is asking for $23.6 million more next year to reissue 8.2 million license tags.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida tax collectors fight state plan to outsource license-tag sales 10/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 12:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New Port Richey police investigating shooting that left one man wounded

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A man was shot and wounded Saturday after police said he assaulted a restaurant employee.

  2. What to watch this week: 'Still Star-Crossed' on ABC, 'House of Cards' Season 5

    Blogs

    MONDAY

    Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in House of Cards Season 5.
  3. Rays call up Jose De Leon to add depth to bullpen tonight

    Blogs

    The Rays decided that after playing 15 innings Sunday they could use some depth and length in their bullpen after all and have decided to call up RHP Jose De Leon from Triple-A.

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is still slated to start tonight, even after throwing 12 pitches to get the final three outs - and the save - in …

    The Rays have recalled Jose De Leon from Triple-A Durham.
  4. Trump hails the fallen and their families at Arlington

    Nation

    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed his nation's "boundless and undying" gratitude Monday to Americans who have fallen in battle and to the families they left behind, hailing as heroes the hundreds of thousands buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

    President Donald Trump participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. [Photo by Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images]
  5. Tiger Woods arrested in Florida on DUI charge, released

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested early Monday on a DUI charge in Jupiter, Florida, and spent nearly four hours in a county jail before he was released.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.