MANATEE - People wanting to beat the deadline of higher fees for driver’s licenes and vehicle registration renewals by applying online were stymied when the Department of Motor Vehicles online service went down today.
A notice popped up saying the “online services are temporarily unavailable due to system maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please re-visit soon.”
A spokeswoman in Tallahassee said at about 11:45 a.m. the system should be back up with in the hour. At about 1 p.m., the system was back online.
Department technicians had to reboot the system, officials said.
Because the Florida Legislature raised numerous fees, which goes into effect Tuesday, people have been experiencing long lines at the Manatee County Tax Collector’s offices.
This morning, there were more than 60 people outside the tax office near DeSoto Square mall waiting for the office to open so they could beat the deadline.
Jan Hilker, the assistant to Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr., earlier this week recommended people go online after tax collection offices experienced a crush of people trying to beat the Monday deadline before renewal fees rise.
Under a new fee structure approved by the Florida Legislature, fees are increasing by 50 percent or more.
The increases on driver license renewals, address changes, title transfers, duplicate titles, motor vehicle, boat and mobile home registration renewals and other services go into effect Tuesday.
“We noticed the wait for driver licenses went up from our usual 5-8 minutes to 20-28 minutes yesterday,” Hilker said Wednesday.
She said online transactions also are taking more time.
On Monday, the tax office processed 4,026 transactions over the Internet, but Tuesday that almost doubled to 7,038.
Even with the jump in online operations, Hilker recommended going to www.taxcollector.com for most services that can be obtained in person in the tax collector offices.
Anyone whose birth date falls on or before Nov. 30 qualifies for the lower fees if they make the transactions before Tuesday.
They also can save money by renewing registrations for two years, instead of one, at the lower rate.
And if your driver’s license is due to expire within the next 18 months, you also can get the lower fees if you renew before Tuesday.
The Legislature increased a multitude of fees during the last session to balance the state budget without raising taxes.
Registration fees will go up 55-65 percent, new titles and transfers will increase 150 percent, and driver’s licenses will cost 70-110 percent more.
For example, a regular driver’s license renewal now runs $27; starting Tuesday it will be $48.
According to the tax collector’s Web site, it has been 20 years since fees for driver’s licenses were last increased.
Also, the last time fees for registrations were raised was 26 years ago.
If you must go into one of the tax collector offices, Hilker said the best time is mid-morning or early afternoon. “Our busiest times have been when we first open, lunch time and close to closing,” she said.